Phillips keeps straight face to frustrate Arsenal

Birmingham City 1 Arsenal 1

A freakish stoppage-time goal by Birmingham substitute Kevin Phillips – the 250th of the 36-year-old striker's career – denied Arsenal the seventh consecutive Premier League victory which a goal by another late entrant into a scrappy contest, Samir Nasri, appeared certain to secure.

Two additional minutes had been played when Birmingham's Craig Gardner chipped a pass into a congested Arsenal area. Bacary Sagna tried to clear the ball but succeeded only into playing it against Phillips' face. Even then, Manuel Almunia put both hands on the ball as it flew goalwards, but merely diverted it over his head and into the net.

Arsenal had taken the lead with nine minutes of normal time remaining, Nasri cutting in from the right and beating Joe Hart with a low, angled shot from 20 yards. It looked as if Birmingham's unbeaten home record, stretching back to September, was about to go, and Nasri and Cesc Fabregas had chances to put the outcome beyond doubt before Phillips struck. An emotional Arsène Wenger admitted the result was "a big blow to our title challenge. It's disappointing because we had the game won and the chances to score a second goal."

Wenger, returning for the first time to the scene of Martin Taylor's ankle-breaking tackle on Eduardo da Silva 25 months ago, complained that Fabregas had suffered a knee injury in an unpenalised challenge by Gardner. "It was a bad tackle," he said, adding pointedly: "One more." Pressed to elaborate, the Arsenal manager snapped: "He got tackled at the knee." Fabregas stayed on and a scan today will decide whether he is fit to face Barcelona on Wednesday.

Alex McLeish, the Birmingham manager, described Gardner's challenge as "robust" and pointed out that Arsenal had perpetrated "a few bad tackles" themselves. "We deserved our moment of glory," the Scot said. "It was a kick in the guts when Nasri scored, but I have to bow to the never-say-die attitude of our players."

Wenger's refusal to move on from the Taylor/Eduardo incident in his pre-match pronouncements – even though the guilty party now plays for Watford – ensured he was booed throughout. However, the "game of hate" tag often looked a misnomer as both sides tried to establish a passing rhythm on a rutted surface. There was greater antipathy in the stands, especially after the home crowd's chorus of "There's only one Martin Taylor".

Arsenal's claim to the moral high ground was weakened by early bookings for Alex Song and Gaël Clichy after they respectively tripped James McFadden and body-checked Gardner. Wenger and his assistant, Pat Rice, each engaged the fourth official, Anthony Taylor, in animated discussion following the second yellow card. McLeish and his No 2, Roy Aitken, then berated Mr Taylor when Fabregas left the field for treatment after Gardner's challenge and then appeared to return without permission.

Back at the match, Birmingham arguably had the better scoring opportunities in the first half. McFadden shot narrowly wide while Almunia made a fingertip save to keep out a Cameron Jerome shot. Arsenal appealed in vain for a penalty when Theo Walcott came up against Liam Ridgewell's superior upper-body strength while Sol Campbell headed over a Fabregas corner.

The heaviest challenge of the match was by Arsenal's Denilson on Gardner shortly after the hour. The Brazilian escaped a caution, but from Barry Ferguson's free-kick, Roger Johnson's side-footed effort saw the ball loop against the far post. As it rebounded it struck the other Birmingham centre-back, Scott Dann, and flew over the bar from almost underneath it.

Nasri's intervention should have floored Birmingham. Instead they found a hero in the ageless Phillips, with a helping hand from Almunia.

Attendance: 27,039

Referee: Howard Webb

Man of the match: Bowyer

Match rating: 6/10

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee