Birmingham pressed well in the first ten minutes which led to two chances for Christian Benitez. The first, Given saved brilliantly from a deflection pushing the ball onto the post. Again the Birmingham pressure led to a chance with the City defence struggling to keep up with the pace of Benitez, as the Ecuadorian was clear with just Given to beat but the Republic of Ireland keeper rushed out well to deny him. It was in the 55th minute that McFadden saw his spot-kick stopped by Given and the Scot was replaced shortly after by Keith Fahey. The pain was further compounded for Birmingham late on when Barry Ferguson saw red as he jumped up and purposefully handled a throw in from Pablo Zabaleta.
City did not create much at all and the only time the Birmingham stand-in keeper Maik Taylor was troubled was from a Carlos Tevez cross come shot that he had to tip over. Hughes decided to bring Steven Ireland on after an hour to replace De Jong and Martin Petrov also came on for a frustrated Roque Santa Cruz. Birmingham managed to scramble one final chance at the death when the ball bobbled through to late substitute Kevin Phillips but he miss-timed his volley. All the changes didn’t affect the end result however, and both teams took a point each.
Mark Hughes: “If that continues then we will be fine but what we have to do is improve on what we have produced at Birmingham. We were disappointed because we know that we can do much better. ”
Alex McLeish: “We have come out of the dressing room a little disappointed not to get the three points because I thought it was a very powerful performance from the players.”
A draw was the right result in the end although both managers were disappointed not to have come away with all three points. Man City were poor in the final third and missed the injured Emmanuel Adebayor greatly. Santa Cruz was easily marshaled by the Birmingham central defenders Roger Johnson and Scot Dann who did well keeping City’s chances to a minimum. If Hughes had of started with a more attacking line up the result may have been a lot different, choosing to leave Ireland and Petrov on the bench meant there was a lack of imagination and attacking moves from defensive midfielders De Jong and Barry.
The former Blackburn boss would’ve been the unhappier of the two managers, as he strives to take his expensive team into the top four. With this draw, City do move into fourth ahead of Tottenham Hotspur but if they perform like this again this season they may not stay there. Neither manager used all three substitutes and Hughes could have brought one more attacking player on to try and steal the win, as the match teetered on a knife edge.
Birmingham fans will be happy with the news that new owner Carson Yeung is willing to spend in the January transfer window. Rumoured to be offering £40m, this will certainly help them stay above the relegation places come the end of the year and possibly even higher as McLeish will try to gel the new players together with his current squad. This weekend has seen a record-breaking amount of red cards with Ferguson’s being the ninth. McLeish won’t be happy with the way in which Ferguson’s match came to an end – the petulant handball that stopped a City throw was not necessary will now see him miss the next fixture away at Anfield.
Hughes again may come under criticism for the results City have had over the last few weeks – today’s result was City’s fourth draw in a row. They will hope to do better against Burnley at home next weekend. Shay Given proved why many believe him to be the best in the Premier League yet again making a handful of saves to deny the hosts. The magnificent penalty save was the pinnacle of a match-winning performance from the Irishman. At the other end Taylor wasn’t quite as busy, as City failed to create any decent opportunities to test the stand-in stopper. As far as nil-nil’s go there was plenty of action for the neutral and Birmingham could feel hard done by not to have left with a win.
Birmingham 0-0 Manchester City –
Birmingham (4-4-2): Taylor – Carr, Johnson, Dann, Ridgewell – Larsson, Bowyer, Ferguson, McFaddden (Fahey 61) – Jerome (Philllips 88), Benitez
Manchester City (4-4-2): Given – Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Bridge – Wright-Phillips, De Jong (Ireland 60) , Barry, Bellamy – Santa Cruz (Petrov 66), Tevez
Birmingham – Manchester City
4 – Corners – 8
4 – Shots (on target) – 6
9 (3) – Fouls – 9 (8)
3 (0) – Yellow cards (Red) – 2 (0)
5 – Offside – 4