Burnley generosity has Benitez in tears

Birmingham City 2 Burnley 1: Ecuador striker makes an emotional farewell to home fans by securing a top-10 finish for Birmingham

An exalted position in the Fair Play League may yet earn relegated Burnley a place in the Europa League next season, although they took the after-you-Claude approach to extremes yesterday. First their goalkeeper Brian Jensen contributed an own goal to Birmingham's push to reach the 50-point mark and secure a top-10 finish for the first time since 1959. Burnley then allowed Christian Benitez, the on-loan Ecuador striker, to break his season-long scoring duck at St Andrew's before Steven Thompson's late consolation effort.

For Burnley, who mark the 50th anniversary of their last League title today, consolation may not be the most apposite word given that they have now taken only seven points out of 51 available since Brian Laws succeeded Owen Coyle.

But for Birmingham, who were promoted with the Lancashire club, the afternoon ended with their manager, Alex McLeish, taking the microphone to address a demob-happy crowd. "It was important for us to sustain our home record," the former Scotland manager said later. "We haven't lost here since September and hopefully we'll sustain that aura next season."

This was almost certainly Benitez's farewell appearance before the Birmingham fans – he would cost £7m from Mexico's Santos Laguna – as well as goalkeeper Joe Hart's Second City swansong. McLeish said he would "assess the situation" regarding Benitez and likened Hart's impact to that of Edwin van der Sar, who, he argued, "saves Manchester United 15 points a season".

Meanwhile, Laws said: "If you took the goals out of the game, which you can do, we had the lion's share of the ball and passed it well." Insisting that he would be in charge next season, he added less fancifully: "That probably summed up our season, particularly the way we defended set-plays."

As fate would have it, McLeish's side were confronted, on the weekend after their controversial defeat at Aston Villa, by the sight of another team in claret and blue. Birmingham attacked with a zeal that indicated they were anxious to purge the memory of Villa Park and could have been four up before they finally took the lead. Burnley's slapdash covering went a long way towards explaining why they have shipped a half-century of goals on their travels.

In less than a minute Lee Bowyer sent a free header wide, and Cameron Jerome missed in identical fashion before forcing a fine save from Jensen at point-blank range.

There was no respite for the burly Dane when Birmingham next threatened. Sebastian Larsson's cross was met by a flicked header from Bowyer which diverted the ball towards the far post. Jerome connected with his chest but the ball was not goal-bound until it struck Jensen and trickled almost mockingly across the goalline.

When Birmingham doubled their advantage, Burnley were unfortunate that referee Peter Walton deemed Steven Caldwell's challenge on Jerome a foul. The defender looked to have taken the ball first. From the free-kick, floated to the back post by James McFadden, Johnson headed the ball back for Benitez to chest over the line. "Sign him up" sang the crowd as the scorer celebrated by bursting into tears.

Burnley creditably kept plugging away, not the easiest thing to do when you have won twice in six months, and Steven Fletcher impressed sufficiently to suggest he will still be a Premier League performer when the adventure is over for his team-mates.

But this, for once, was Benitez's day. Larsson, supplied by the South American, was inches away from a spectacular volleyed goal while Benitez himself was denied by Leon Cort's desperate block. Birmingham's failure to score a third could have been costly after Jack Cork released Thompson to halve the arrears, but there was no way back for Burnley.

Referee: Peter Walton

Man of the match: Benitez

Match rating: 5/10

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week