Two sent off as Forssell's twin strikes earn point
Birmingham City 2 Fulham 2
Monday 15 September 2003
Birmingham's on-loan striker Mikael Forssell can be forgiven for feeling somewhat confused with the way his football career is going.
The 22-year-old Finnish striker scored twice to preserve Birmingham's unbeaten record in a bad-tempered draw at St Andrews yesterday, which saw the home side's Darren Purse and Fulham's Sylvain Legwinski sent off by the referee, Steve Dunn.
Forssell equalised twice for the Midlands side, cancelling out a 37-second Louis Saha strike and a contentious second Fulham goal by Luis Boa Morte, sparing the manager, Steve Bruce, some difficult questions after last week's surprise sale of the striker, Geoff Horsfield.
But the tall, blond frontman still wonders whether he is coming or going, having signed a new four-year contract with Chelsea in the summer only to look on in some bemusement as the arrival of Adrian Mutu and Hernan Crespo rendered his chances of a first-team breakthrough at Stamford Bridge even more remote.
Forssell admits the decision to farm him out to Birmingham - his third spell on loan after earlier stints with Crystal Palace and Borussia Mönchengladbach - has done nothing to clarify his future.
"It is all a bit strange," he said ahead of yesterday's game, before going some way towards fulfiling his pledge to "prove a point" to Chelsea, where he has started only six League games in five years, with a goal in each half.
Forssell hauled an out-of-touch Birmingham back into the match in first-half stoppage time, beating Edwin van der Sar crisply from 12 yards after David Dunn had headed down a Damien Johnson free-kick. Birmingham, who had started their second Premiership campaign with two wins and a draw, and no goals conceded, had struggled to find any rhythm against Chris Coleman's well-organised Fulham.
Ahead after only 37 seconds when Saha went past Matthew Upson and rounded the goalkeeper, Maik Taylor, to score, Fulham had looked comfortable with their lead. But Forssell's goal spurred Bruce's team to an improved performance in the second half.
However, even though the visitors were reduced to 10 men on the hour when Legwinski, earlier cautioned for a foul on Stephen Clemence, received a second yellow card for tripping Dunn, it was Fulham who regained the lead with 12 minutes remaining.
Boa Morte took advantage when Taylor, on loan at St Andrews from Fulham, went up to catch a long ball into his penalty area only to spill it under pressure from the Fulham man, who hooked the ball into the empty net with Taylor left sprawled on the ground. Birmingham had complained that Taylor had been impeded but the referee allowed the goal to stand. Four minutes later, however, Forssell struck again, pouncing to drive the ball home after Purse's header was blocked.
It was unfortunate that Purse should then sour the moment by tangling with Boa Morte as Forssell was celebrating, apparently aiming a punch at the Portuguese player, which prompted an instant red card from Mr Dunn.
Robbie Savage almost snatched victory with a curling free-kick in the dying moments but a brilliant save by van der Sar ensured that Forssell remained the toast of the day.
Birmingham City (4-4-2): Taylor 6; Kenna 4 (Tebily, h-t 6), Purse 5, Upson 4, Clapham 5; Johnson 6, Savage 4, Clemence 6 (Lazaridis, 63 5), Dunn 6; John 5 (Morrison , 69 5), Forssell 8. Substitutes not used: Bennett (gk), Cissé.
Fulham (4-3-2-1): Van der Sar 6; Volz 6, Knight 6, Goma 6, Bonnisel 5; Inamoto 5 (Djétou, 90), Legwinski 6, Clarke 6; Malbranque 6 (Pembridge, 63 5), Boa Morte 7; Saha 7 (Sava, 80). Substitutes not used: Crossley (gk), Melville.
Referee: S Dunn (Bristol) 7.
Bookings: Johnson, Dunn. Goma, Inamoto, Legwinski.
Sendings off: Fulham: Legwinski ;Birmingham: Purse.
Man of the Match: Forssell.
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