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REPORT: BIRMINGHAM V SPURS

Posted on 1 March 2008  - 12:00

It was back to league business with a bang and then a crash at St Andrews as Birmingham emerged 4-1 winners on Saturday.

It was back to league business with a bang and then a crash at St Andrews as Birmingham emerged 4-1 winners on Saturday.

The point that the season is far from over was firmly reinforced by the home side, who were clinical in front of goal, if not dominant in possession. An early strike and two second half goals in quick succession - topped up by another ten minutes from time that saw Mikael Forssell claim a hat-trick - put us to the sword. Jermaine Jenas scored a late consolation, nothing more.

Teemu Tainio lined up in an unfamiliar full-back role behind Jamie O'Hara down the left flank, while Pascal Chimbonda moved inside to centre-half alongside Younes Kaboul. Tom Huddlestone and Didier Zokora occupied the central midfield berths, deep of an attacking duo of Darren Bent and Dimitar Berbatov.

Playing in all yellow the team fell behind on seven minutes after a scruffy opening. A corner from the left was nodded into the danger area by Liam Ridgewell and James McFadden smashed back across goal to where Forssell was waiting to direct a header past an unprotected Paul Robinson.

O'Hara was only a foot or so away from perhaps levelling six minutes later after Bent battled to work him a shooting chance, but a Gary McSheffrey free-kick in the other direction skimmed the head of Alan Hutton and the home lead came close to being doubled.

Berbatov repossessed the ball on 19 minutes and advanced before smashing what at first looked a goalbound attempt against the upright. Bent then sprung the offside trap latching on to Huddlestone, but Maik Taylor was quick off his line - later foiling an O'Hara drive.

Malbranque then carved himself out a scoring chance that a combination of Ridgewell and the goalkeeper contrived to squeeze behind, although the midfielder maybe took a touch or two too many and the angle was working against him.

O'Hara was looking most likely to create an avenue to goal and Taylor did particularly well to deny him seven minutes before the break with an excellent stop and hold to his right.

There were two changes after half-time, Robbie Keane on for Malbranque and Jermaine Jenas introduced in place of Tainio. Chimbonda switched to left-back and Zokora centre-half.

Before the new system could really take shape, Robinson kept his team in it with a magnificent save. McSheffrey crossed from the left and Forssell met the ball with a downward volley and Robbo reacted superbly to tip over the bar.

The changed formation appeared to involve three at the back, four in midfield and three up top, with Keane given more licence to roam.

The home advantage, however, was doubled on 54 minutes after Zokora gave away a free-kick on the edge of the area with a trip on David Murphy. McFadden stepped over the ball and the right-footed Sebastian Larsson angled his effort around the wall and into the near post to make it two.

It was a home treble four minutes later when a Larsson cross struck Zokora, Robinson was forced into a fine save, but Forssell was on hand to slot in from a tight angle and the St Andrews crowd was not about to contain its delight.

Chris Gunter was added to the mix with 17 minutes remaining, swapping places with Zokora, with Hutton then given the freedom to push further forward down the right flank.

Berbatov then extended Taylor into a tip-over from a powerful drive, but a recovery was not looking on the cards at this stage. Huddlestone drilled a shot high and wide before Birmingham increased their margin with Forssell claiming a hat-trick, profiting from a McFadden throughball.

Jenas struck late from close range, scant reward on the day for a high number of efforts on goal for an away side.

So it ended as a seasonal double for Birmingham, but surely PSV will not find us nearly so accommodating on Thursday.