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It turned out to be an afternoon of conflicting emotions for Robbie Keane at the Lane, his two goals against Birmingham turning the contest on its head before a red card cut short his contribution and the visitors went on to grab the initiative and snatch a late winner.

It turned out to be an afternoon of conflicting emotions for Robbie Keane at the Lane, his two goals against Birmingham turning the contest on its head before a red card cut short his contribution and the visitors went on to grab the initiative and snatch a late winner.

Keane struck twice - once from the spot - to overturn a first half deficit and it appeared that three points would be making a happy deposit in our account. However, Birmingham struck again out of the Blue and then the skipper was given his marching orders following a decision that is likely to be debated for a little while yet. Sebastian Larsson had the last and dramatic say in the encounter.

Younes Kaboul and Darren Bent were restored to the side in place of Lee Young-Pyo and the injured Jermaine Jenas. It was certainly an attacking hand played by Juande Ramos, with Keane and Steed Malbranque occupying a central midfield anchored by Didier Zokora.

Dimitar Berbatov was first to cause concern to the Birmingham bench of newly appointed manager Alex McLeish and his assistant Jim Aitken when he seized on defensive uncertainty and worked Maik Taylor for the first time of the afternoon. Keane should then have worked him further after Bent slotted him through on goal, but his effort was slashed high and wide.

It was a lively affair though under lights in the late afternoon winter darkness and drizzling rain. You knew we are now well into the winter programme when news of the FA Cup Third Round draw filtered through - Reading to visit the Lane in early January.

There was a blast from the past working with a Belgian TV crew on the Press Box, one Nico Clausen, no doubt gathering preview material for our UEFA Cup clash with Anderlecht on Thursday. Watch this space for Nico's thoughts.

Berbatov and Keane combined to create half a chance through the Bulgarian's header before the same player dispatched a superb cutting throughball for Bent to pounce on. Bent went for it first time and the legs of Taylor were enough to divert wide.

Completely against the run of play, Gary McSheffrey darted into the area and Kaboul came across to deal, but ended up making more contact with the man than the ball and referee Mr Dowd instantly pointed to the spot. McSheffrey did the honours himself and drove down the middle to make it 1-0 to Birmingham on 23 minutes.

The pressure continued to head in one direction only, with Lennon posing the biggest threat, but Taylor really had to be at his best to keep out a Gareth Bale free-kick that was arrowing into the top corner in the 36th minute. There was some resolute defending in front of goal by the visitors, who managed to slide in and apply a block to just about every low cross in the first period.

Like on Thursday it was the whistle for the beginning of the second half that provided the spark. Zokora sped forward and linked up with Berbatov, who was felled in the area by Johan Djourou. Again Mr Dowd showed no hesitation in pointing spot-wards. Despite a delay due to Pascal Chimbonda receiving treatment, Keane stayed cool and hit his penalty high into the net.

There were changes again at the resumption of play after the interval, Tom Huddlestone being drafted in along with Jermain Defoe in place of Kaboul and Bent.

The introduction of Huddlestone once more paid dividends when a delicious chip into the area was gobbled up by Keane, who hit his shot downwards and the bounce of the ball beat Taylor and it was 2-1 with 53 minutes on the clock. It should then have been three when Berbatov hit the post rather than the back of the net after a stray defensive header fell to him in front of goal.

The crowd of 35,635, bar 700 in the top corner, were stunned into silence just after the hour when Cameron Jerome ventured forward and escaped Zokora before pinging in a low shot between two defenders and beyond the reach of Paul Robinson's outstretched left hand to make it an unlikely 2-2.

Berbatov peeled away to connect with a Bale corner a few minutes later and it took Stephen Kelly to chest away off the line.

There was a twist in the tale on 67 minutes when Keane challenged Fabrice Muamba and Mr Dowd showed the skipper a red card. Replays showed there was contact, but no way did it look a sending off offence and Keane looked suitably bemused as he was leaving the field.

Bale then had to be withdrawn following a hefty challenge from Muamba and, with Lee now on the pitch, it was a case of seeing whether the ten men could net the three points.

It was Birmingham who next came closest to winning the day with two minutes left on the clock when Mikael Forssell grazed the bar from all of a few yards out when he connected with a low Olivier Kapo delivery. Kapo went on to test Robinson with a fierce drive before, in stoppage time, Larsson picked up the ball some thirty yards out and fizzed the ball past Robinson and into the top corner.

If you needed a game to sum up the term 'smash and grab' then this was it.