Premier League - Birmingham fightback earns draw
Sat, 06 Nov 16:45:00 2010
Birmingham came back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with West Ham in an entertaining Premier League battle at St Andrew's.
Second half strikes from Frederic Piquionne and Valon Behrami had put West Ham in control but a bundled finish from Cameron Jerome in the 64th minute gave Birmingham hope.
The home side completed an impressive fightback in the 73rd minute, when Liam Ridgewell was the first to react after Robert Green had kept out Sebastian Larsson's free kick.
Either team could have won it, with Behrami missing a good chance late on, but the points are shared after a thrilling encounter.
Much of the talk had been about Birmingham's former owner David Gold, now co-owner of West Ham, being banned from the stands. But co-owner David Sullivan was present and would have been encouraged from what he saw from West Ham in the first half.
Avram Grant's side dominated the first 45 minutes, restricting Birmingham to hitting the ball long in the hope that Nikola Zigic would be able to create something for himself or Jerome.
But West Ham were alert to that strategy and their defence, marshalled by Matthew Upson, reduced to Birmingham's front men feeding off scraps.
Scott Parker dictated the rhythm of West Ham's play all afternoon and, not only doggedly denied Barry Ferguson and Keith Fahey a sniff of the ball, but the former Chelsea man was also hugely influential in attack.
He continually unlocked the Birmingham defence, finding Carlton Cole in space on a number of occasions.
And it was Cole, who was a handful all day, who came closest to breaking the deadlock, when Victor Obinna found him with a cross from the right in the 17th minute.
Cole lost his marker and his improvised shot forced a top class save out of Ben Foster, who palmed the ball onto the inside of the post before Birmingham swept it clear.
That desperately close effort gave West Ham a boost, as they bombarded the Birmingham goal until half time, with the Obinna-Cole combination providing Grant's side with their best goal scoring opportunities.
Cole, still searching for the kind of form that saw him make Fabio Capello's England squad last season, found himself in space a number of times but when his shooting was not off target, the commanding Ben Foster was standing in his way.
West Ham picked up where they left off at the beginning of the second half and, within just three minutes of the restart, they were ahead.
Birmingham were carved open up by Obinna's defence-splitting ball which found Piquionne, who finished confidently.
Just 10 minutes later, West Ham had doubled their lead with a lovely goal from Behrami.
Parker started the move with a driving run from midfield before finding Cole, who resisted shooting and instead rolled the ball to the right, where Behrami raced in to fire first time past Foster.
Despite Grant barking instructions from the touchline, West Ham were unable to prevent Jerome pulling a goal back in the 64th minute, and it came from a predictable source.
A long ball was nodded down by Zigic and Jerome anticipated well to tap in from close range. Birmingham were in the ascendancy and West Ham's first half domination was now a distant memory.
But West Ham remained a threat on the counter-attack all afternoon and Obinna forced a another stunning save out of Foster, who tipped Obinna's fierce shot onto the bar.
Robert Green pulled off a couple of very good stops to keep West Ham ahead, but he was unable to prevent Birmingham's equaliser.
Another free kick from Larsson tested Green, who did well to keep it out, but his parry went straight to the feet of Ridgewell who reacted quickly and stabbed it home.
The Hammers could have had a dramatic late penalty when claims of handball were turned down by referee Michael Oliver, despite strong protests.
A frenzied finale ensued as Birmingham threw everything at West Ham in search of an equaliser, but the away side hung on for a deserved draw.Michael Da Silva / Eurosport