Gravesen lifts Everton as Blues are caught red-handed

Birmingham 0 - Everton 1
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The Independent Online

Muzzy Izzet's luck ran out as a Thomas Gravesen penalty kept Everton on course for a Champions League spot with victory at St Andrews. Izzet had been fortunate to escape a sending-off when he appeared to handle Luis Garcia's shot on the line during Birmingham's 1-0 win over Liverpool at Anfield last weekend.

Muzzy Izzet's luck ran out as a Thomas Gravesen penalty kept Everton on course for a Champions League spot with victory at St Andrews. Izzet had been fortunate to escape a sending-off when he appeared to handle Luis Garcia's shot on the line during Birmingham's 1-0 win over Liverpool at Anfield last weekend.

But referee Rob Styles was more eagle-eyed as he spotted Izzet palming away a goalbound shot from Lee Carsley and brandished an instant red card to the Turkish international.

Gravesen then stepped up to coolly send Blues keeper Maik Taylor the wrong way with his 68th minute spot-kick.

It secured a fifth away win in seven Premiership matches for David Moyes' team as they strengthened their hold on third place in the table following Bolton's home defeat at the hands of Aston Villa. But they were relieved in the closing seconds when Birmingham substitute Dwight Yorke missed his side's best chance of the game from close range.

The game was far from a classic with Birmingham lacking in confidence and belief despite the victory over Liverpool. There was a lack of constructive play from both sides and Steve Bruce's side are now back looking over their shoulder at the relegation places.

But Everton, for whom Gravesen was impressive in the centre of the park, have acquired that knack of digging out results even when they have not performed at their best.

The most worrying fact for the home side is that they have netted only eight times in 12 league games and Bruce is aware of the need to bring in a striker in January.

The home side started brightly enough and had an opportunity inside the first 60 seconds after Robbie Savage had floated a free-kick in the Everton area.

Emile Heskey, without a goal in two months, was the first to react but lacked direction with his header which flew wide.

Jesper Gronkjaer flashed a shot past the post and Tony Hibbert turned away a probing centre at full stretch from Muzzy Izzet after good play by Damien Johnson.

Julian Gray tried his luck from long range and was only just off target and Muzzy Izzet should have done better when he sent a header straight at Martyn from Gronkjaer's cross.

Everton midfielder Kevin Kilbane became the first player to be yellow-carded after 17 minutes for a late challenge on Mario Melchiot.

Leon Osman produced the first on-target effort for the Toffees but Taylor dealt competently enough with his left-footed drive. Everton started to come more into the game and it needed a solid tackle by Matthew Upson to halt a run from Cahill in its tracks. Birmingham had lost their early impetus and Taylor was relieved to cling on to a low curling free-kick from Thomas Gravesen at the second attempt after the Blues defensive wall had broken ranks. Taylor also failed to hold on to a Gravesen centre after coming well off his line and it needed Kenny Cunningham to throw his body in the way of a shot from Osman.

Heskey nearly broke the deadlock three minutes before the interval after accepting a pass from Gronkjaer but his lob over Martyn drifted just wide.

The game was crying out for a spark of creative inspiration and after an hour Bruce brought on Stan Lazaridis for Stephen Clemence. He slotted in at left-back with Gray pushing further forward and Gronkjaer switching over to the right flank.

Heskey had a rare opportunity after 65 minutes but his left-footed drive flew high over Martyn's bar when he should have at least tested Martyn.

Then after 67 minutes Everton broke the deadlock through Gravesen's penalty as Birmingham found themselves reduced to 10 men with the sending-off of Muzzy Izzet.

Izzet handled Carsley's long range effort on the line and was instantly red-carded by referee Rob Styles. Up stepped Gravesen to send Taylor the wrong way with his spot-kick.

Birmingham tried to retaliate and Heskey had a header cleared off the line by Hibbert after he had met a corner from Gronkjaer. Upson was just too high with a header from another Gronkjaer centre as Blues went for broke despite their numerical disadvantage. Osman should have put the game beyond doubt for Everton after Gravesen found him in acres of space but he dragged his shot past the far post.

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