Zarate earns Blues draw
Lescott opens for Everton before Zarate sends in free kick
By Laura Slatcher. Last Updated: 12/04/08 5:59pm
Lescott: Ninth of the season
A stunning free-kick from substitute Mauro Zarate secured Birmingham a 1-1 draw against European hopefuls Everton on Saturday.
The visitors took the lead after 78 minutes when Joleon Lescott helped on Aiyegbeni Yakubu's header to score his ninth goal of the season.
Birmingham were handed a free kick on the edge of the box five minutes later when Lee Carsley was adjudged to have handled the ball.
Substitute Zarate's right footed free-kick was hit with pace and Tim Howard could do little but watch it hit the back of the net.
It was no more than Blues deserved after dominating the second period only for poor finishing and some superb saves from Howard to deny them victory.
No wonder boss Alex McLeish wants to sign Zarate - currently on loan from Qatar side Al-Sadd - on a permanent basis.
Former Blues striker Andy Johnson was warmly applauded by the home fans before the kick-off and nearly made an instant impact against McLeish's men.
Within the first 30 seconds, recalled City defender Liam Ridgewell saw his clearance ricochet off Johnson and past keeper Maik Taylor but also just wide of the post.
Birmingham threatened for the first time when a pass from Mikael Forssell allowed Gary McSheffrey to run at the Everton defence but his low cross towards James McFadden at the far post was cut out by Howard.
The home side were forced to make a change after 23 minutes when Sebastian Larsson limped out of the action to be replaced by Cameron Jerome.
A mix-up between Ridgewell, Stephen Kelly and Taylor almost presented Lescott with a gift goal but his shot flew into the side-netting.
Mehdi Nafti became the first player to be yellow carded after 29 minutes for a late challenge on Yakubu.
McFadden did well to shake off the challenge of Leighton Baines before turning towards goal but his eventual shot lacked power and Howard was able to save comfortably.
The game was crying out for someone to put their foot on the ball and show some quality but after 39 minutes Jerome came close to breaking the deadlock.
McFadden dinked the ball across the area and picked out Jerome whose header back across goal beat Howard but struck the post and rebounded to safety.
Then Johnson managed to get goal-side of Ridgewell after being put through by Yakubu but his low shot flew across the face of goal.
McLeish made a half-time substitution, bringing on striker Garry O'Connor for Forssell, who had picked up a first-half knock.
Phil Jagielka blocked a shot on the turn from McFadden and, from the resulting corner, Ridgewell was guilty of a glaring miss after 52 minutes.
McSheffrey's centre took a flick off the head of Tony Hibbert and Ridgewell found himself unmarked six yards out but he sent his shot over the bar.
Blues started to threaten more regularly and Radhi Jaidi got on the end of another Gary McSheffrey corner but sent his downward header straight at Howard.
City won a free-kick in a threatening position when Steven Pienaar dragged down Fabrice Muamba 20 yards out and Howard had to go away to his left to keep out McFadden's curling effort.
Everton boss David Moyes brought on striker Victor Anichebe for Pienaar after 65 minutes but Blues were still looking the more likely to break the deadlock.
It needed Howard to make a superb double save to keep his side on level terms. First he turned aside a superb volley from Jaidi from 20 yards out and then recovered to keep out the follow-up from McFadden.
Taylor saved a low drive from Manuel Fernandes but after 78 minutes Lescott put Everton ahead when Carsley's cross was flicked on by Yakubu and Lescott headed in for his ninth goal of the campaign.But City roared back and Zarate curled a free-kick past Howard to rescue a point after Carsley had handled on the edge of the box.
|Birmingham City||Team Statistics||Everton|
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|5||Shots on Target||4|
|6||Shots off Target||10|
Barclays Premier League
|12||West Bromwich Albion||1||1|
|16||Queens Park Rangers||1||0|
|18||West Ham United||1||0|