Premier League - WBA win spoils Birmingham party

Sat, 05 Mar 14:39:00 2011

The return of League Cup winners Birmingham City to Premier League action ended in a 3-1 defeat to West Bromwich Albion at St Andrew's.

Match Highlights:

Following their dramatic late Wembley win over Arsenal last weekend, even a derby which doubled up as a relegation six-pointer was not enough to avoid a feeling of anti-climax at the start of this fixture.

However, the match exploded into the action right from the start of the second half, with Youssouf Mulumbu opening the scoring before Jean Beausejour equalised barely a minute later.

James Morrison then put the visitors back in front in stunning fashion before Paul Scharner (pictured) added a third to claim a rare away win for the Baggies and an even rarer one for manager Roy Hodgson.

The win ensures that West Brom will not end the latest round of fixtures in the bottom three, whatever results emerge elsewhere, while a win for either Wolves or West Ham will see Birmingham drop into the relegation zone.

Birmingham boss Alex McLeish made five changes to the line-up which began at Wembley, with Obafemi Martins rewarded for his goalscoring heroics with a start in the Blues attack.

However, it was Martins's strike partner who came closest to scoring his first league goal since November with the only two clear chances of a stilted first half.

The forward intercepted Scharner's sloppy pass before sending narrowly wide of the far post before glancing a header from Beausejour's cross just the wrong side of the same upright.

West Brom had enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges, with some quality approach play and Jerome Thomas's incisive runs, but centre-back pairing Roger Johnson and former Baggies defender Curtis Davies were more than up to the task.

In the absence of the injured Barry Ferguson and Craig Gardner, Keith Fahey took well to his task of pulling the strings in the Birmingham midfield, and the Irishman grew in confidence as Birmingham increasingly came into the match - but the teams went in at half-time on terms.

If the first half was a disappointment, the second was anything but. Hodgson brought Peter Odemwingie on for Marc-Antoine Fortune at the break, and the club's top scorer took less than two minutes to make more of an impact than fellow Nigerian Martins did in the entire match.

Odemwingie combined with Mulumbu and managed to pick out his run into the box at the second time of asking, and the Congolese midfielder fired past Foster for his fourth goal of the season.

West Brom's fans barely had time to celebrate on enemy turf before their team were pegged back. Stephen Carr played Lee Bowyer down the right channel, and the midfielder fired a low cross in from the byline which Beausejour met to register his first goal for Birmingham.

The hectic pace of that start continued, and just before the hour mark Morrison produced a cracking strike to put the Baggies back in front. Steven Reid picked the Scotsman out on the edge of the box and he skilfully chipped to ball over Davies before rifling in a left-footed strike.

Odemwingie missed an open goal when Chris Brunt's strike rebounded off the post and came back to him at pace with Foster still on the ground, but it mattered little as West Brom soon had their third.

A corner was played short to Morrison who bent his cross to Scharner at the far post. The Austrian headed back towards goal from the tightest of angles and the ball bounced just over the line via Foster's extended right hand.

The visitors looked comfortable as they saw the game out, securing only second away win in Hodgson's last 29 league matches as a manager.

Birmingham will long remember the major piece of club history made last Sunday - but this derby loss was one to forget for them.

Tony Mabert / Eurosport

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