Bowyer chips in with touch of class to pip Fulham
Birmingham City 1 Fulham 0
Sunday 22 November 2009
Victories don't come much harder-fought than this. Birmingham City created no more than a chance and a half, survived pressure sometimes as incessant as the driving rain yet clung to the victory that lifted them three places up the table.
In a game in which neither team mastered the atrocious conditions, Lee Bowyer's fourth goal of the season was the deciding blow for a side increasing in belief that they can grind out results. It was only the fifth time Birmingham have scored in the League at St Andrew's but, remarkably, they have now taken 11 points here – a tribute, despite their chronic defensive injury problems, to how difficult they have become to break down here.
Centre-halves Roger Johnson and Scott Dann are adapting admirably as top-flight rookies and did as much as anyone to ensure that Fulham, for all their possession, brought but one save from Joe Hart – a flying tip-over from Clint Dempsey's header midway through the second half.
"We don't want to be defending desperately every week but the comforting thing is that, when we are under pressure, we have the players to cope," Alex McLeish, Birmingham's manager, said. "Eyebrows were raised when I signed Lee Bowyer but he has proved people wrong and the goal he scored was the one bit of class we produced in the game."
At 32, Bowyer is a much more mature figure. His opportunist 16th-minute finish owed much to a clever chip into space in the area by James McFadden following Christian Benitez's pass. What looked a close race between attacker and goalkeeper was won comfortably by Bowyer, who adjusted his stride to lob right-footed over the stranded Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer.
Fulham arrived with the confidence of a side unbeaten in five League games and monopolised the making of what chances there were. Bobby Zamora steered wide after a rare mistake by Dann, Brede Hangeland sent a header whistling over from Simon Davies' corner and Zoltan Gera, having seen a first-half effort blocked by Johnson, bobbled a shot into the sodden turf and over when Zamora chested down Paul Konchesky's centre.
Damien Duff, one of the Republic of Ireland players given extra post-Paris recovery time, also skidded a shot wide after his late introduction and Roy Hodgson, the Fulham manager, was frustrated rather than angry.
"It was a good performance and a bad result," he said. "We couldn't have dominated the game much more."
Referee: Chris Foy
Man of the match: Johnson
Match rating: 4/10
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