Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Match Report:Birmingham City 1 Manchester United 1


Lee Bowyer struck a controversial 90th-minute goal to earn Birmingham a draw against Manchester United, who moved back to the top of the Premier League.
United had taken the lead when Dimitar Berbatov released Darron Gibson with a clever flick and then took the return pass to drive a shot inside the post.
An 18-yard Berbatov strike also hit the post before the late drama.
A Blues cross appeared to hit Nikola Zigic's arm before Bowyer stole in to slide home an equaliser.
Birmingham lifted themselves out of the bottom three with the draw but United will feel aggrieved at the manner of the leveller as Zigic might also have been penalised for offside and a foul on Rio Ferdinand as he went up to meet a ball put in by Roger Johnson.
Nonetheless, in an unpredictable Premier League campaign of more twists and turns than usual this season, United again succumbed on their travels.
The chink in their armour so far this season has been their away form in the league and they went to Birmingham hoping their growing strength could help improve on a record of just one win in seven on the road heading into the game.
Birmingham had been beaten just once in their last 23 top-flight games at home and they made the size of United's task even greater by adopting a 4-5-1 formation as they produced the sort of discipline and organisation the Midlands side have used to frustrate so many rivals.
With time and space at a premium, the touch and precision of United's play needed to be of a high order but the visitors fell into the problems of so many before them as they struggled to pick a way through Birmingham's lock.
And, with United struggling for flair and fluency, it was fortune which came close to giving them the lead.
An attempted cross from Ryan Giggs inadvertently materialised into a shot and backtracking Foster managed to get his fingertips to the ball to divert it against the post before his defence cleared the danger.
Foster was sold by United to Birmingham during the summer and, while he might have been keen to show his former employers that they made a mistake, he was rarely called into any meaningful action.
United forward Wayne Rooney was deployed on the left of midfield with the licence to go forward, although his struggles continued with a first goal from open play since March looking an unlikely occurrence for him.
Although Birmingham looked secure at the back, their solidity came at the expense of a genuine threat in front of goal.
When they did get a sight of goal Craig Gardner, who had latched on to a Lee Bowyer lay-off, could only send a shot from the edge of the box high and wide.
A cleverly worked corner the other side of the break gave Gardner another sight of goal as the ball ricocheted to him but the Blues midfielder's snapshot from 12 yards went straight into the arms of keeper Edwin van der Sar.
United and, in particular Berbatov, heeded the warning and produced the type of creativity the game had been starved of to break the deadlock.
Berbatov's clever flick released Gibson for a surge at the Blues defence and when the Bulgarian received the return pass he unerringly drove in a low shot into the bottom corner of Foster's net.
It took the United striker's tally to 14 in the league and, with the home side momentarily rocking, he was only denied another when his 18 yard strike hit the post.
Birmingham boss Alex McLeish brought on the lofty Zigic to give his side an aerial threat in attack and the move eventually paid off in dramatic fashion as he helped set up the late leveller for Bowyer.

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