Premier League - Birmingham sneak past Bolton

Sat, 02 Apr 17:01:00 2011

Birmingham City eased their relegation fears with a crucial 2-1 victory over Bolton Wanderers in the Premier League at St Andrews.

Match Highlights:

Goals from Kevin Phillips and Craig Gardner put the Blues in the ascendancy.

However, the St Andrew's faithful nerves were tested when Johan Elmander pulled a goal back and Ben Foster was called on to make two important saves in injury time at the end of the match.

Birmingham came into the match having secured only one point in their previous three Premier League games, and since their famous Carling Cup triumph. A run which has seen the Blues slip further and further into the relegation mire.

However, they got off to the perfect start with Phillips' opener in just the 4th minute.

Sebastian Larsson sent an outswinging corner towards the veteran striker who had cleverly peeled off his marker. Having controlled and steadied himself in one move, Phillips proceeded to send a low drive, which Jaaskelainen could only get a hand to, into the Bolton goal from just inside the penalty area.

Alex McLeish's men had settled the quicker of the two teams and Gardner was beginning to find the space in midfield that he required when attempting a couple of long-range drives in the 7th and 29th minutes.

But Bolton, set up in an attacking triumvirate of Kevin Davies, Daniel Sturridge and Elmander, were always going to pose a threat going forward.

The warning signs came in the 14th minute as Martin Petrov fed Sturridge down the Bolton left but, having done well to cut back inside, the on-loan Chelsea Striker ballooned his shot well over Ben Foster's goal.

Then, in the 32nd minute, a long goal-kick from Jaaskelainen was flicked-on by Davies into the path of Sturridge, who stung the palms of Foster with a rasping drive towards the far post.

Kevin Davies was then guilty of blazing over when unmarked in space in the 38th minute, but it was the role of Foster in denying Sturridge in two quick occasions which really caught the eye in preserving Birmingham's one-goal lead at half-time.

First, in the 41st minute, Elmander cushioned Davies' clipped delivery towards Sturridge whose low strike, this time towards Foster's near post, was well-smothered.

Then, just a minute later, Foster produced the best save of the lot - making an athletic fingertip save to deny a venomous Sturridge strike, heading towards inside of the far post, after the striker had darted in from the left flank.

That's not to say Birmingham did not have chances to add to their lead before the break. Lee Bowyer half-volleyed over Jaaskelainen's bar inside the Bolton penalty box in the 26th minute, having been found free in space from Larsson's pinpoint delivery.

While, in the 39th minute, Cameron Jerome sprinted towards the Bolton goal but ended up striking miserably wide on the edge of the penalty box; the miss becoming even more inexcusable after Phillips had darted forward in an acre of space to Jerome's left.

Birmingham came out strong at the start of the second 45 minutes - Phillips stung the palms of Jaaskelainen with a fierce drive, with the ball coming back out to Bowyer.

The midfielder's nod across goal saw Larsson slot home, however, the Swedish winger was adjudged offside from Phillips' initial shot and so the goal did not stand.

That, nevertheless, seemed to spur on Birmingham and, after Roger Johnson forced Jaaskelainen into a brilliant reflex save with a cushioned strike in the 56th minute, the home side grabbed their second just before the hour mark.

Craig Gardner drove the ball low past the Finnish keeper from 20 yards out, with his effort having ricocheted off both posts before nestling in the back of the net.

Bolton forced their way back into the match on the 71st minute. A long-ball from Gretar Steinsson was chested down by Davies into the path of Elmander who rifled home an unstoppable half-volley from just outside the box to halve the arrears.

Owen Coyle had sent on Chong-Yong Lee, Ivan Klasnic and Matthew Taylor in the closing phases to increase his side's attacking presence.

But, with time running out, the substitutes were unable to click as Birmingham's defence and, in particular the resolute Johnson, stood firm time and time again.

As the match went into stoppage time, Foster became the hero as he produced an excellent couple of consecutive saves to deny a flicked Davies header and then a looping Steinsson effort.

But Birmingham held on to secure what could well prove to be a crucial three points in their fight to avoid relegation from the Premier League.

Liam Graf / Eurosport

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