Fowler's deft header creates an opening for Pearce

Manchester City 3 Birmingham City 0
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Robbie Fowler shared top billing with Shaun Wright-Phillips, Manchester City's main inspiration, as the campaign to have Stuart Pearce installed as manager moved on a pace.

Robbie Fowler shared top billing with Shaun Wright-Phillips, Manchester City's main inspiration, as the campaign to have Stuart Pearce installed as manager moved on a pace.

On the night Wright-Phillips was welcomed back to the starting line-up after injury, Fowler scored with an in-off and made the second goal in the second-half dismantling of Birmingham City.

Pearce had described as unacceptable the club's record of only six Premiership home wins and his confidence that the job will soon be his permanently can only have been bolstered by this uplifting second success in five matches under his charge.

The buzz that greeted Shaun Wright-Phillips' inclusion in the team for the first time in six matches turned to groans inside 70 seconds. Rustiness could be the fit-again midfielder's only mitigation as he leaned back and blazed wildly over from four yards out after Fowler's shot struck the foot of the post.

Although Darren Anderton's 25-yard free-kick thudded out of the chest of the diving David James, the force was initially with the home side. Kenny Cunningham cleared a pull-back from Shaun Wright-Phillips while Antoine Sibierski twice went close.

The response of Steve Bruce, the Birmingham manager, to three successive draws was to make four changes, although Mario Melchiot was retained despite his weekend criticism of what he perceives as his team's direct style.

A slumbering game finally came to life shortly before the hour. Clinton Morrison thought he had broken through with a toe-poke from Jermaine Pennant's lovely cross, only to be denied by an offside flag.

No sooner had he angrily kicked a water bottle into the crowd than the ball was in the net again, this time at the other end in the 55th minute.

Fowler found Kiki Musampa on the left and advanced to guide in the resulting cross beautifully from near the penalty spot, the ball going in off his head, the post and keeper Maik Taylor.

Birmingham were nearly level almost immediately when Pennant curled a free-kick inches over with James nowhere.

Fowler delivered the free-kick that Richard Dunne headed home 10 minutes from time after losing his marker, Emile Heskey.

And Sibierski netted the third from a late penalty when Morrison was apparently adjudged to have handled.

Manchester City (4-4-1-1): James; Onuoha, Dunne, Distin, Jordan; Barton, Reyna, Sibierski, Musampa; S Wright-Phillips (Croft, 88); Fowler (B Wright-Phillips, 82). Substitutes not used: Weaver (gk), Mills, McManaman.

Birmingham City (4-4-2): Maik Taylor; Melchiot, Cunningham, Upson, Clapham (Lazaridis, 40); Pennant, Carter, Anderton (Pandiani, 75) Clemence (Blake, 66); Heskey, Morrison. Substitutes not used: Bennett (gk), Martin Taylor.

Referee: M Atkinson (W Yorkshire).

Comments