Izzet strike gives Bruce better end to a bad day

Bolton Wanderers 1 - Birmingham City 1
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The Independent Online

As his players trudged off at half-time, Steve Bruce must have been thinking his day was irredeemable. Mugged on his own doorstep in the early hours, he had then watched his team take a fearful first-half battering from Bolton.

As his players trudged off at half-time, Steve Bruce must have been thinking his day was irredeemable. Mugged on his own doorstep in the early hours, he had then watched his team take a fearful first-half battering from Bolton.

But as the floodlights came on in the early evening, things suddenly started to brighten up for the Birmingham manager. His newly assembled team, who had looked like a rabble yet to be introduced to each other for the first 45 minutes, at last began to play like the sum of their expensive parts, and Emile Heskey might even have won it with a header that grazed a post at the death.

It was a sign of the confidence Bolton's bright start to the season has engendered that they scarcely missed their inspirational but injured playmaker Jay-Jay Okocha.

His mantle was picked up by the Spanish defender Ivan Campo, whose early run past three defenders set the tone for the incessant pressure the rickety Birmingham rearguard had to endure.

As they melted in the heat, Maik Taylor had to get down smartly to keep out Campo's raking 25-yard free-kick, Henrik Pedersen scuffed a chance at the far post and Kevin Davies narrowly failed to get on the end of a long ball that eluded the back four.

The inevitable Bolton goal arrived after 16 minutes when Birmingham failed to clear one of a string of free-kicks and the impressive Tunisian full-back Radhi Jaidi chested down the loose ball and struck a right-foot volley inside the near post.

It threatened to open the floodgates, but though Campo had a penalty appeal turned down and Pedersen and Jaidi both went close, Birmingham survived.

Clearly Bruce had endured enough pain for one day, and whatever he said at half-time had immediate effect. Muzzy Izzet forced the Bolton goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen to tip over, and Heskey went close from the ensuing corner.

Under pressure for the first time, it was the Bolton defence's turn to panic. They failed to cut out a through ball and Jamie Clapham squared it for Izzet to score off the underside of the bar.

Bolton thought they had regained the lead when Pedersen beat Taylor, but he had strayed offside. Except for Heskey's last-minute miss, Birmingham never looked like pulling off an unlikely second win of the season. But they did enough to muffle the alarm bells at St Andrew's for the time being and salvaged something for their manager from an unpromising day.

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