Heskey bursts Arsenal bubble

Birmingham City 2 - Arsenal 1
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The Independent Football

So maybe the portents for the FA Cup final are not as lop-sided after all. Birmingham City yesterday stripped Arsenal of some of their springtime aura of invincibility in a surprise rush of three goals in the last 10 minutes.

That Arsène Wenger's side should concede two of them after letting in only two in their previous 13 matches will provide Manchester United with another pre-Cardiff tonic.

It may, though, be only a minor irritation, even for a side who hate losing as much as the deposed champions do.

"The fact we got caught by taking it too easy should help us focus on next Saturday, particularly on our defensive performance," Wenger said.

Thierry Henry, Robert Pires and Lauren were held back, the striker after a reaction to his come-back - one that leaves a decision on him to be made on Wednesday or Thursday.

Arsenal nevertheless played like a team considering themselves capable of extending their unbeaten League run to 13 games. And, when Dennis Bergkamp popped up with a shot that carried just enough power to beat Maik Taylor for the 88th-minute goal which cancelled out Walter Pandiani's opener, it seemed they were right.

But their defence was breached again when Emile Heskey ran on to Clinton Morrison's flick to score with a low drive. For a side who had not scored against these opponents in five previous Premiership meetings, it was a cause for celebration at the end of a trying campaign.

"It's a great way to finish and we deserved it," Steve Bruce said. "Emile has been terrific." With Jermaine Pennant highly impressive against the club which groomed him, Birmingham did enough to suggest that next season will be more fruitful than this one.

Goals: Pandiani (80) 1-0; Bergkamp (88) 1-1; Heskey (90) 2-1.

Birmingham City (4-4-2): Maik Taylor; Melchiot (Tébily, 78 ), Cunningham, Upson, Clapham; Pennant, Nafti, Carter (Morrison, 62), Clemence; Pandiani (Martin Taylor, 89), Heskey. Substitutes not used: Vaesen (gk), Blake.

Arsenal (4-4-2): Lehmann; Touré, Senderos, Campbell, Cole; Fabregas (Flamini, 75), Silva, Vieira, Ljungberg (Edu, 68); Bergkamp, Van Persie (Aliadière, 68). Substitutes not used: Almunia (gk), Eboue.

Referee: D Gallagher (Oxfordshire).

Booked: Birmingham Pandiani.

Man of the match: Pennant.

Attendance: 29,302.

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