Saturday, 29 January 2011

The Masters of the Comeback

The game seemed like a real anti-climax at first. It's not that not any of us wanted to lose, it's just that the game seemed like it didn't matter as much as everything else going on, i.e. a relegation battle in the league and trip to Wembley in the Carling Cup. Nevertheless, McLeish fielded quite an attacking team, showing he was determined to win the tie and keep up Blues' good record in both domestic cups this season.

Surprisingly we started the better side, which isn't something we see too often. Just a few minutes in and Bentley bombed down the left hand side and whipped in a ball which Zigic met and headed agonisingly wide. Kevin Phillips, getting a rare start, also came very close to giving Blues the lead; but it was the away side who drew first blood in the tie. Marlon King picked up the ball on the right and with Ridgewell lying on the floor with a head injury, he was unmarked and able to have a great shot on goal which sailed past the Blues keeper Doyle and sent the 6,000 travelling Coventry fans crazy.

The Championship side found their feet in the game then, and began to take more control in the tie despite Blues still posing that great attacking threat with Bentley and Beausejour running the wings. Coventry's second of the game came thanks to a McSheffrey corner, a strong Richard Wood header and some questionable Blues defending.

But even at 2-0 down you felt that Blues were going to at least take the tie to a replay. It's just the Blues way. And Bentley brought the home side right back into it when 25 yards out he unleashed an unstoppable shot that looped over the head of goalkeeper Westwood and stunned the rest of the Coventry team. Half time, 2-1, and game most definitely on.

The turn of the half saw Blues completely go for it. You sensed an equaliser straight away, and it almost came courtesy of Beausejour; after a signature ball into the box by Bentley, all Beausejour had to do was head it in from a few yards out, but the ball skimmed off his head and went agonisingly wide of the post. However, this didn't stop Blues, and with 67 minutes gone of the game Nikola Zigic did some superb battling on the right hand side and was able to get the ball to Hleb before being knocked to the floor. Hleb took the ball on and crossed into the area and his pin-point ball found Parnaby who was on hand to equalise for the home side; finishing off a really good move by Blues.

On the up now, Blues just kept on attacking. Kevin Phillips had numerous shots on target throughout the game yet couldn't find the back of the net... that was until the 74th minute when he popped up with the winning goal. After being denied by Westwood, Blues won a corner, and when the ball landed at Phillips' feet in the area, you could have put money on him finishing: and he did. 3-2 Blues, and try as they might the Coventry players just couldn't find a way back.

Hleb had a great game in midfield and although he over did it at times, his attacking play was brilliant and he was a great asset to the side today. As was evergreen Kevin Phillips, who even managed to play the whole ninety minutes, getting into key positions and then popping up with the winning goal as well. The whole team seemed very assured today, and despite going two goals down never really looked like they were in trouble. In the end, it could have been 4 or 5-2; It was a great team performance second half. Well done Blues.

Full Time: Birmingham City 3-2 Coventry City

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