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Fulham send Birmingham home pointless

last updated Monday 22nd February 2010, 3:54 PM
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Ian Hughes at BBCSport

Fulham 2 - 1 Birmingham

Bobby Zamora curled in a late free-kick to earn Fulham a come-from-behind win.

Birmingham were gifted the opening goal when Chris Baird headed into his own net from Lee Bowyer's right-wing cross.

Baird then blocked superbly from Keith Fahey before Damien Duff played a one-two with Zoltan Gera and smashed a 20-yard shot in off the post to equalise.

Mark Schwarzer superbly tipped James McFadden's 25-yard shot on to the bar but Fulham snatched victory when Zamora put his free-kick into the top corner.

It was a result that had looked unlikely after the opening half, where Fulham struggled to shake of the effects of having played in the Europa League on Thursday. And Birmingham, having been given an early advantage after Baird's error, appeared able to comfortably keep their opponents at arm's length.

A win for Birmingham would have taken them to the landmark total of 40 points and would have virtually guaranteed their Premier League status for next season.

And throughout the first half it seemed that outcome was inevitable as a Fulham appeared jaded and short of ideas.

Instead, Birmingham will leave London wondering how they managed to take nothing from the capital again - as they had done in their previous four visits.

They will look back at the tremendous save from Schwarzer that kept McFadden's shot out, but credit must be given to Fulham for raising their game and overcoming a truly dreadful start.

Baird, too, will be mightily relieved after his error of misjudgement that saw him thump a header into the top corner of his own goal after only three minutes. The former Southampton defender went some way to atone for his mistake when he brilliantly blocked Fahey's shot as the visitors pressed to double their advantage.

Birmingham went on to largely control the opening half as Fulham looked well below par.

The hosts did threaten twice, but Joe Hart was easily equal to a volley and, later, a header from Simon Davies.

Fulham improved after the break and as a result they began to push Birmingham back.

And as the visitors defended from deep, they invited Duff on to their cost when the winger cut in from the right, exchanged passes with Gera and cracked home a belting shot.

That sparked a spell of pressure for Fulham, although they were unable to create clear chances.

And they nearly succumbed to a rare counter-attack from Birmingham when McFadden came inches away from making it 2-1.

As the final whistle approached it seemed the two sides - who started the match adjacent to each other in the mid-section of the table - would not be separated.

But Zamora, under the gaze of England manager Fabio Capello in the stands, expertly curled home a 20-yard free-kick to earn his side victory.

The goal - Zamora's 15th goal in 32 starts - will give Capello food for thought ahead of the World Cup, while it also saw Fulham leapfrog Birmingham in the table.

Fulham boss Roy Hodgson:
"We got off to the worst possible start with the own goal aftrr three minutes.

But to come in at half-time 1-0 down after the way we had played was harsh on the players.

I knew it was going to be tough in the second half, as we'd had a tough week and I was worried that we would not be able to keep it going.

"We were fortunate with the wonder strike from James McFadden that hit the underside of the crossbar but otherwise I thought we were really good value for our victory.

"We had more shots, more opportunities and more of the play - we had to dig deep and score two great goals to win it, but we got there in the end."

Birmingham boss Alex McLeish:
"We lost because of two pieces of inspiration from Fulham, the finishes were brilliant.

That is the difference in quality that we have to aspire to.

"I didn't feel there was any real rhythm from either team and I felt it was a nothing game until Damien Duff took a hand in proceedings.

"And Bobby Zamora was the big difference.

Today, my players had a hard game against one of the best strikers in the league.

"If they are going to step up to the next level, they have to overcome players like him."
Source Birmingham, Premiership, win
Since 1998
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