Carling Cup - Zigic earns Blues derby victory over Villa

Thu, 02 Dec 22:01:00 2010

Birmingham put one over their neighbours Aston Villa to clinch a semi-final place in the Carling Cup with a 2-1 win at St Andrew's.

- 0

Nikola Zigic grabbed an 84th minute winner at a time when Villa were looking by far the likelier side to score to spark wild celebrations with a pitch invasion at the end threatening to take some of the shine off a famous win for Alex McLeish's side.

Sebastian Larsson's penalty opened the scoring and it really should have been 2-0 when Zigic's shot crossed the line but Liam Ridgewell was flagged offside. Seconds after that controversial moment, Gabriel Agbonlahor kept up his impressive record against Villa's neighbours by firing home the equaliser.

Zigic's deflected shot perhaps should have been kept out by Friedel and there were ugly scenes after the final whistle with the two sets of supporters clashing with seats and missiles being thrown.

Villa dominated the early exchanges without really troubling Ben Foster but Friedel was soon called into action to comfortably save a Cameron Jerome shot.

With only 11 minutes gone, James Collins failed to take control of a dangerous situation inside the Villa box and Jerome bullied his way onto the ball to tee up Lee Bowyer. Richard Dunne flattened the midfielder from behind and referee Chris Foy rightly pointed to the spot. Up stepped Larsson to calmly send Friedel the wrong way with a side-footed penalty.

The lead was undeserved and Villa looked stunned at first but managed to keep possession and clear their heads.

However, Birmingham still looked dangerous and it took a fine interception from Luke Young to thwart Zigic after the Serbian was guilty of a poor first touch following good work by Jerome and Larsson.

Controversy reigned in the 28th minute when Zigic prodded in a shot that Friedel mishandled and saw it marginally cross the line before clawing it back. The assistant referee instead flagged for offside with Ridgewell waiting to pounce but the defender was not interfering with play.

To increase the feeling of injustice, Agbonlahor was borderline offside when profiting after good approach work by Ashley Young and Ciaran Clark. The striker, back after a bout of gastroentiritis, expertly worked an angle and slipped his finish wide of Foster to level the scores.

Coming only a couple of minutes after the incident at the other end, it was a real boost for Villa but they nearly fell behind again when Zigic released Jerome and the big striker dinked his shot agonisingly wide despite being one-on-one with Friedel.

The half petered out a little after all the breathless excitement although Barry Bannan managed to drift infield to work Foster from distance.

The second half was somewhat scrappy as the tackles began to fly in and Foy needed to start reaching for his notebook.

There were almost identical saves at either end as Friedel and Foster kept out crosses from Keith Fahey and Ashley Young in quick succession but chances were few and far between. Bannan and Stewart Downing had shots blocked and Villa managed to get on top with Scott Dann soldiering on at the back for Blues despite picking up a knock.

A lightning turn of speed by Agbonlahor carved out a chance for substitute Stephen Ireland but Foster pushed the ball out. Ashley Young looked certain to bury the rebound only for Ridgewell to make a crucial block to avert the danger.

With six minutes left, Birmingham broke and Larsson threaded the ball down the right to Jerome who crossed into the path of Zigic. The Serbian slid in to meet the ball and it looped up off Luke Young and past Friedel as the American got a hand to it but failed to keep the ball out.

A Downing cross was headed off target by Ciaran Clark and Foster managed to make a couple of timely catches to help ease the pressure on his defence as Villa sought a route back into the game.

The hosts held out despite a generous amount of injury time being played by referee Foy with Jerome having the only real attempt late on after being teed up by substitute Matt Derbyshire.

It's the first win in eight for Birmingham against their fiercest rivals and even the stormy scenes involving the fans at the end won't detract from their achievement.

City were paired with West Ham in the two-legged semi-finals as they bid to emulate Villa's appearance in the final last year.

Adam Marshall / Eurosport

Not already a Yahoo! user ? to get a free Yahoo! Account