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Birmingham relegated despite final flourish

SoccerNews in English Premier League 11 May 2008


Birmingham were relegated from the Premier League for the second time in three seasons despite a 4-1 win over Blackburn at St Andrew’s on Sunday.

Ultimately, the outcome was rendered inconsequential for the home side as relegation rivals Reading and Fulham beat Derby and Portsmouth respectively.

That helped to ease some of the pain for the home fans, who watched their side equal their best victory of the season with a late flourish.

The game was in the balance until the dying minutes and late goals from Cameron Jerome and Fabrice Muamba added a flattering, if fruitless, gloss.

Birmingham’s poor form away from St Andrew’s has cost them and relegation will be a bitter disappointment to former Scotland boss Alex McLeish, who took over the reins from the sacked Steve Bruce last November.

Birmingham were forced into a late change just before kick-off when James McFadden aggravated a recent knee injury in the warm-up and was unable to start, meaning the Argentinian Mario Zarate stepped off the substitutes bench to partner Mikael Forssell in attack.

And it was the lively Zarate who went close to opening the scoring after just three minutes, slicing his shot wide after exchanging passes with Fabrice Muamba.

Given their must-win situation, Birmingham showed few signs of nerves in an open game against opponents who also needed a victory in a bid to clinch sixth place and an Intertoto Cup place next season.

Rovers almost snatched the lead against the run of play with a Stephen Warnock snap-shot, before the home side wasted another glorious chance to go ahead when Olivier Kapo missed the target with a free header from Sebastian Larsson’s cross.

Birmingham, though, finally took the lead they deserved after 32 minutes thanks to a blunder by Rovers goalkeeper Brad Friedel.

The American, equalling a Blackburn club record for the most consecutive appearances for a goalkeeper, made his 152nd game one he will want to forget when he allowed David Murphy’s 30-yard shot to slip through his hands and gifted the full-back his first-ever Premier League goal.

Rovers nearly levelled when Brett Emerton’s cross was cleared off the line by Stephen Kelly with Jason Roberts waiting for a tap-in, but they were back in the hunt four minutes after half-time thanks to another mistake.

Birmingham skipper Damien Johnson allowed Johann Vogel to dispossess him and the Swiss international set Roberts clear. Maik Taylor blocked the shot, but the ball was worked across to an unmarked Morten Gamst Pedersen and he sidefooted home.

Both sides went all-out in the final half hour and substitute Cameron Jerome missed an open goal after 72 minutes, spooning a shot over from three yards, before sparing his blushes two minutes later with a neatly-volleyed finish from Sebastian Larsson’s cross.

Jerome added his second two minutes from time with a cool finish from Gary McSheffrey’s long ball and Birmingham signed off from the top flight with Muamba’s header in injury time.


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