Home » EPL, Latest » Match Report: Birmingham 1 Aston Villa 1

Birmingham City and Aston Villa finished this match outside the relegation zone, and for that both sides must be thankful, but again there was evidence that neither team’s strikers could find the net with GPS assistance let alone their colourful boots.

That Alex McLeish and Gerard Houllier must rely on defenders for goals – centre-backs Roger Johnson and James Collins rose to this occasion this time – does not bode well for either side as they struggle to climb the table.

Villa, who started the day second from bottom, will be relieved with a point, but they should really have taken advantage of a rare uncertain performance from Ben Foster, who could do with getting back to the practice ground to work on his clearances.

Richard Dunne – another centre-back – had a header cleared off the line at the end, while Gabby Agbonlahor should have scored after 34 seconds, having profited from Foster’s first poor clearance before somehow popping his shot over the bar.

Houllier’s side had started the stronger, hitting the woodwork three times inside the first 23 minutes, twice legally. The first, in the eighth minute, came when Carew tipped an effort by Agbonlahor on to the top of the bar with the back of his head, the second when Ciaran Clark’s cross caught the wind, looped over Foster and on to the same spot. Home supporters nervously breathed sighs of relief.

Sensing that failure to attack in return would be perilous indeed, Birmingham responded, seizing control of possession through sheer intensity and ending the half comfortably in charge.

Matt Derbyshire, starting in place of the injured Cameron Jerome, somehow failed to connect with the ball from three yards out when Gardner escaped Kyle Walker in the area and supplied a perfect low cross.

It was a let-off for Walker, the young right back on loan from Spurs, not to mention Friedel, as was referee Mark Clattenburg’s decision not to award a penalty when Gardner played the ball onto Walker’s arm in the area shortly before the break.

Villa were just as fortunate when, a second later, Danny Murphy was pushed to the ground by Marc Albrighton. Again Clattenburg refused to nibble.

Any sense of injustice was soon forgotten in the 49th minute, when Alexander Hleb was fouled outside the area by James Collins. David Bentley, making his debut after joining on loan from Tottenham last week, took the free-kick, which scudded through to Carr. The defender clipped the ball between Dunne and Walker, and Johnson side-footed into the corner.

Birmingham had chances to double the lead, and extend it again, Bentley drawing Friedel into a palmed save, Gardner then rushing a volley soon afterwards, striking the ball well wide from a dangerous position in front of goal.

Houllier’s response was to remove Nigel Reo-Coker for Barry Bannan, and John Carew for Nathan Delfouneso. The striker made an immediate impact, charging down another hash of a clearance from Foster.

Suddenly the Birmingham defence were under unnecessary pressure, and when Collins received the ball in the area the defender swivelled and found the corner.

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