Premier League - Spurs send Birmingham down

Sun, 22 May 18:01:00 2011

Birmingham City paid the ultimate price for their late-season slump in form as a 2-1 defeat to Tottenham at White Hart Lane consigned them to relegation from the Premier League.

Match Highlights:

Alex McLeish's men had looked safe when Craig Gardner's 25-yard shot in the 79th minute cancelled out Roman Pavlyuchenko's opener just after half time.

But results elsewhere turned against the Blues, who were left needing to win and blew a decisive chance in the second minute of injury time as Keith Fahey failed to get onto the ball at the far post.

Then Pavlyuchenko scored on the break to score a dramatic winner, sealing Tottenham's spot in the Europa League and sending Birmingham back to the Championship after just two seasons in the top flight.

To rub salt into the wounds, West Midlands rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers stayed up at Birmingham's expense, while Blackpool also went down.

The hosts took charge of the match from the opening whistle, clearly going all out to secure a Europa League spot rather than take their chances with the booby prize of a potential UEFA Fair Play entry into the qualifying stages of the competition.

Right from the outset the industrious Danny Rose and the flawless Luka Modric had the Blues on the ropes, with Rose's cross just three minutes in almost giving Peter Crouch a chance to open the scoring.

Danny Rose and Luka Modric combined brilliantly again just before the quarter-hour mark, leaving the Birmingham defence flat-footed and releasing Sandro on the edge of the box. His stinging effort was perfectly struck, forcing Ben Foster to tip the ball over at full stretch.

Modric then set up a chance for Crouch five minutes later that went just wide as the beanpole striker looked lively.

And Crouch again was at the centre of the action in a penalty box melee on 26 minutes that started with the England man trying to juggle the ball, and ended with him nodding it over to Jermain Defoe, whose powerful header forced an excellent stop by Ben Foster.

Crouch was injured in a clash of heads in the move, however, and was replaced by Pavlyuchenko - though the Russian picked up where Crouch left off, looking as lively and dangerous as his opponents looked leaden and uninspired.

And it was no surprise that it was the Russian who opened the scoring four minutes after the restart after unleashing a 35-yard rocket into the top right corner, his stunning goal aided considerably by the acres of space afforded him by the Birmingham defence.

The goal sparked the visitors into picking up the pace, yet they remained perhaps too fearful of leaving gaps at the back for Spurs.

But a trickle of chances did start to flow, with Roger Johnson heading Sebastian Larsson's corner just wide on 64 minutes, and Gardner having a belated first shot on target for Birmingham with 17 minutes remaining.

Spurs remained the dominant force in the game, however, with Foster saving brilliantly from Pavlyuchenko as the hosts broke upfield immediately after Gardner's effort.

The introduction of Matt Derbyshire with 12 minutes left gave Birmingham more creativity, and he forced Ledley King into conceding a corner almost after running onto the pitch.

Larsson took it, and though the ball was cleared it fell for Gardner, who lashed the ball into the bottom right corner.

The goal appeared to have saved Birmingham's Premier League status - but moments later at Molineux, Wolves pulled a goal back against Blackburn which meant Birmingham would be going down on goals scored.

For several minutes the Blues cruised, wrongly believing themselves safe, until the message reached the players that they needed to score again.

And they came within inches of finding a winner deep into injury time, Fahey going agonisingly close to latching onto a corner while unmarked at the far post.

Yet it was not to be - and Tottenham's players came sprinting up the pitch on the break that led to Pavlyuchenko putting the Blues' relegation beyond doubt, the defence again giving him too much space and allowing him to crack the ball in off the underside of the crossbar.

For Tottenham, the victory and Europa League place was just reward for their performance in a match which they dominated utterly - while Birmingham will only have themselves to blame for a performance that often simply lacked the required spirit to keep them in the top flight.

Toby Keel / Eurosport

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