Birmingham City 2-0 Sheffield Wednesday – Report By Jake
Posted on April 30, 2007
Filed Under Reports By Jake
Pressure affects football teams in different ways. When Fabrice Muamba was sent off for a second booking in quick succession on the hour the tense atmosphere felt at St. Andrews all afternoon rose higher. And boy, did the players respond.
Galvanised by what many felt was the unjust dismissal the players found an extra inner strength and with astute substitutions coupled with the home crowd raising the decibal level the match finally sparked into life. Has there been a better team in The Championship when down to ten men than Blues this season ? Sheffield Wednesday may have felt the turning point in the game was Muamba’s red card. Their role in the second booking left a sour taste in the mouth as it looked like the referee, the painfully weak and inconsistent Paul Taylor, had only given a foul until some of the Wednesday players turned on the Arsenal loanee. Poetic justice was served with the result and maybe their actions worked against them ultimately.
With such an important game for both teams in the promotion chase the first half proved to be a nervous affair, Blues looking most dangerous at set pieces and Wednesday having neat approach play without either side creating a clear chance in open play. Wednesday came into the game on the back of a fantastic unbeaten eleven game run and their well drilled defence was frustrating the home side and fans as the half progressed.
The second half began with the visitors on the front foot and chances were created either side of Muamba’s bookings. Luck was on Blues side, Kenny Lunt hitting the bar from ten yards when he should scored, yet the ten men responded positevely to the pressure cooker sitution. With Nafti on to bolster the centre midfield and Jerome on to utilise his power and pace Blues had sacrified their two most effective forward players this season in McSheffrey and Bendntner. Both were correct decisions by Steve Bruce, timed well and the subs helped Blues keep their shape and have an extra threat on the counter attack.
The more the game progressed the more important the first goal was going to be. One of the most consistent aspects of Blues this season has been their excellent set pieces and from a larsson corner Jerome hooked the ball home and gave everyone associated with Blues something vital to hold onto.
With Wednesday pushing for an equaliser there came one of those magic moments football fans hold hope out for and will tell their grandchildren about it for years to come. Seb Larsson picked up the ball just by the halfway line and somehow found an extra yard of pace and skill to go on one of the magical runs, past one player .. two .. three .. maybe more … and cooly slot the ball home. The Goal Of The Season book should now be closed. Has anyone ever seen a better goal by a Blues player in such a pressure situation ?
The reaction of the Blues players, bench and fans said it all. Will the win be enough to secure automatic promotion. Who knows ? With Leeds effectively down, if Derby win at Crystal Palace tomorrow they will surely fancy beating the dispirited Yorkshiremen on the last day which would need Blues needing a point at Preson to make sure. In this league nothing should be taken for granted.
For now take heart and enjoy the moment. Blues won against the odds in the end and not many teams can say that in this league faced with the same pressures.