Blues 3-1 Manchester City – Report By Jake
Posted on March 31, 2008
Filed Under Reports By Jake
At 3.40pm last Saturday Blues were technically sitting in the bottom three of the Premiership. That, just over and hour later, they were four points clear of the last relegation place shows how thin the dividing line in football can be.
Make no mistake, Alex McLeish’s men deserved the vital home win against Manchester City. If anyone thinks this may have been the pivotal moment of the run-in so far the twists and turns of the past two weekends matches should serve as a reminder events can turn around just as quickly again. If Fulham beat Sunderland for example and Blues lose at Wigan the gap would only be three points…
It is hard to summarise a match where one team, the visitors, were seemingly already on their post season holidays. It is to the credit of McLeish’s men that they did not sink to the level of the opposition and without the intervention of a referee whose only consistency is his inconsistency the win looked like being far more comfortable than eventually happened.
With Franck Queudrue winning the vote to replace the suspended Liam Ridgewell at centre half and Damian Johnson swapping places with Mehdi Nafti Blues dominated the first half bar one Benjani shot which hit the post. For all their possession, clear cut chances were not forthcoming as often as the approach play suggested. With Queudrue settling into his new role as the half progressed it was the industrious work of Larsson and Johnson that caught the eye and if ever there were two players who have benefited most from the change of manager this season it is the midfield duo. The former now has the consistency to go with his undoubted skill and work ethic whilst the latter has shown he has more to his game than the previous manager allowed him to use.
When Queudrue caught out Richard Dunne with a delightful defence splitting pass just before half time young Zarate showed why the loan fee paid for him has been paid back already with an intelligent lob to give the home team the goal their half’s work warranted. A few minutes later the groans around St. Andrews were clearly audible when news filtered through that relegation rivals Bolton were two goals ahead of ten men Arsenal. So when the second half started quietly and was awoken with another quality strike from the young Argentinian the homes fans relaxed. Enter Rob Styles. The softest of softest penalties later, followed by a red card, eventually given to the correct player (Queudrue) for the “foul” on Benjani and Mr. Styles had shown his view from thirty yards away is as poor as his sight from mere yards away. Hindsight shows technically it may have been a penalty, if the incident had occurred outside the penalty area I wonder if anything would have been given. Mr. Styles hides behind the rules. Remember his is the referee who also gave the infamous penalty that never was at Anfield and Peter Ndlovu will remember him from a few years back amongst others. Fortunately Mr. Styles is the same for all teams as he was later to prove.
With Elano converting the penalty Blues showed the resilience and desire required to withstand any potential Manchester City threat and once Larsson was able to resume his right sided duties, having filled in defensively after the sending off, the shape of the home team was better. With an Arsenal comeback in full swing at Bolton Mr. Styles decided to let his heart rule his head and gave a penalty after the most un-penalty probably witnessed at St. Andrews in recent history. Gary McSheffrey basically fell over after a shoulder to shoulder challenge. Mr. Styles, if he was consistent, should be giving half a dozen penalties per match on that basis. It took footballing courage for McSheffrey to step up and take the penalty. Home fans have not been particularly supportive of a player who is clearly short on confidence yet for me never shirks away when things are not going well. If it was Olivier Kapo who had one assist and one goal and not much else would fans also be heckling him ? Some of the modern fans forgt to support their team and/ or player during the actual match. I wonder how they would feel if someone stood over them in their workplace and consistently shouted down at them. Whatever your opinion on a players abilities the least we can do is back him during the ninety minutes.
With the two goal lead restored Blues never looked again in serious danger. Martin Taylor looks odds on now to be back for the Wigan game. Queudrue showed that a centre half comfortable on the ball gives an extra option. A vital win enhanced with Bolton losing at the end against Arsenal and we have some breathing space with six games to go. Easter may have gone, don’t count those chickens just yet.