Birmingham City take all three points in West Midlands derby
Birmingham City take bragging rights In 3-1 win vs. West Brom.
Going into Friday night’s game, Birmingham City looked to enter the play-offs after what had been a run of just one win in seven games. With a 4-1 victory last time out over struggling Huddersfield Town, John Eustace’s men arrived to the St. Andrews Stadium with plenty of confidence, hoping to turn their form back to how it was at the start of the campaign.
However, it wasn’t going to be easy for the Blues, as West Bromwich Albion headed into the game sitting just inside of the top six. The Baggies, who were unbeaten in their last five league games with two wins and three draws, had their travelling fans hopeful of a win over their local rivals. But West Brom boss Carlos Corberan stated before the game that he expected Birmingham to be tactically different compared to their previous meetings saying, “this time, i expect the ball to be on the floor a lot more. They have talented, young players. We have to play a very good game against.“ A late free kick from Gary Gardner all but sealed three points for the home side.
It was West Brom who started the better of both sides. Coming out strong, they had their opposition on the back foot early doors and it was only five minutes before a poor clearance from the Birmingham defence fell straight to the back line of the Baggies enabling them to keep the pressure on. That pressure led to a square pass across the pitch that fell to John Swift, who calmly passed the ball in off the post – giving him his sixth goal of the season.
Birmingham struggled to find their feet off the back of this, and for the next 15 minutes it was all West Brom, until Koji Miyoshi found himself in the opposition box in the 20th minute and what was arguably a slip turned tackle saw Cedric Kipre give away a controversial penalty. A talking point for after the match, it was evident the centre-half had slipped into Miyoshi after what was a poor touch from the Blues attacker. Much to the joy of the Birmingham fans, though, it was Juninho Bacuna who took the ball and stepped up to the spot, sending Alex Palmer the wrong way and finishing it into the bottom right corner.
Unfazed, it was West Brom who carried on the pressure keeping the majority of the ball. The only success for Birmingham being on the counter.
13 minutes after the equaliser, the home side found themselves on the attack, and it was Kyle Bartley at the heart of the defence for West Brom who managed to get his body behind a Birmingham shot leading to a corner. The resulting set piece saw the ball find its way to Cody Drameh on the right wing, and what followed was a brilliant whipped in cross which Blues captain Dion Sanderson managed to head home over Palmer in the 38th minute, after being left unattended in the box. A goal this late on in the first half meant there was little time for the away side to get back in to the game.
Just one change at half time, for the Baggies, which saw Erik Pieters come off for Conor Townsend. The 35 year old Dutch centre-half had a tough battle with goal scorer Bacuna all throughout the first half.
Birmingham came out better in the second half; a much more relaxed and composed side, different to what we saw at the start of the game. A much milder game after the break, with neither side creating too many chances in the first 10 to 15 minutes. However, just before the 60 minute mark, it was the away side who created one of the best chances of the game. Matt Phillips with a brilliant ball from the wide left found Darnell Furlong free at the back post, but the chance was wasted and Furlong’s shot went wide of the post.
Quiet spells from both sides lied ahead, but the problems worsened for the away side with goal scorer John Swift coming off in the 73rd minute with what seemed to be a calf injury; on came 20-year-old teammate Tom Fellows, for his first appearance of the season.
Centre back Kipres’ game got worse in the 86th minute; a foul on the edge of the box saw him receive a yellow card and give Birmingham another chance at goal from just outside the 18-yeard box. Up stepped forward Gary Gardner, who lifted the ball into the top-left corner and sealed the game in the 87th minute. A sublime shot which kept curling it’s way past the goalkeeper.
The night wasn’t done there, though. A counter from the Blues nearly saw an own goal from West Brom, but Alex Palmers reflexes kept the score at 3-1.
An excellent night for Birmingham, seeing off a strong West Brom side and making it two wins from two. Both teams now head into the international break in strong league positions – the Blues have now moved up to fifth place and see themselves back in action next time out against Middlesborough.
While West Brom drop to seventh, if results go their way, it is a good position to work on when they come back after the break. They face Plymouth Argyle on the 21st of this month.