Blues dent City's title hopes
Struggling Birmingham twice fight back to hold Mancini's men
By Ben Collins. Last Updated: 02/02/11 11:31pm
Gardner celebrates late leveller
Craig Gardner's late penalty gave Birmingham a deserved point which could end Manchester City's Premier League title hopes.
Having lost at Aston Villa in their last league game and seen Man United, Arsenal and Chelsea all win on Tuesday, Robert Mancini's star-studded squad knew they needed a victory to keep up with their title rivals.
They seemed on course at half-time as although Nikola Zigic cancelled out Carlos Tevez's deflected opener, Aleksandar Kolarov put City back in front just before the break with a fine free-kick.
But with the visitors again looking shaky from set-pieces, they failed to take their chances on the break and half-time substitute Patrick Vieira gifted Birmingham a 77th-minute spot-kick.
Top scorer Gardner converted his seventh goal of the season to give Blues a precious point and keep them out of the bottom three on goal difference, while City now trail league leaders United by eight points having played a game more.
Birmingham's never-say-die attitude surfaced yet again with on-loan David Bentley and Barry Ferguson impressing in midfield.
Edin Dzeko posted an early warning to the home side when his low cross was cut out by Ben Foster and in the fourth minute Tevez claimed his 17th goal of the campaign.
City broke with Tevez laying off for David Silva, who was then allowed to jink into the home before finding Tevez, and the Argentina striker tried his luck from a wide angle, with his shot deflecting inside the far post off Martin Jiranek.
Tevez took up another good position to latch onto a reverse pass from James Milner but he failed to make a decent contact with his shot and Foster saved comfortably.
Joe Hart was seriously tested for the first time after 15 minutes when he tipped over a 20-yard volley from Zigic.
Birmingham started to get a foothold in the game and drew level three minutes later from a Bentley free-kick on the left.
The on-loan Tottenham winger hit an inswinger towards the near post, where the City defence had let Zigic run to poke the low ball past an exposed Hart.
The visitors were rattled after their early dominance and Nigel de Jong was yellow carded for bringing down Bentley.
Micah Richards was then stretchered off after colliding with De Jong as he tried to clear from the City box and he was replaced by Kolo Toure after a lengthy stoppage.
And play had only been going again for a few minutes when Gardner fouled Dzeko just over 25 yards out and Kolarov stepped up to hit a curling left-footed free-kick round the wall and into the bottom corner.
De Jong had tried to continue after having his head bandaged following that clash with Richards but made wat at the break, with veteran Vieira coming on for the second half.
Bentley volleyed narrowly over from just outside the box shortly after the restart while Jerome Boateng tested Foster after exchanging passes with Dzeko down the right.
Birmingham replied with Jiranek fluffing a shot from 12 yards before Roger Johnson headed wide from Bentley's deep cross back in.
Tevez was linking up well with Silva and Foster did well to block a shot from the City skipper after Silva picked out his diagonal run.
And City would rue not increasing their lead as Birmingham levelled for the second time with 13 minutes left.
Vieira fouled fellow sub Kevin Phillips inside the box and up stepped Gardner to hammer the spot-kick past Hart into the roof of the net.Both sides were pushing for a winner in a frantic finale, with Hart tipping over a deflected effort from Phillips while Kolarov curled another free-kick inches wide with the last kick of the game.
|Birmingham City||Team Statistics||Manchester City|
|1||1st Half Goals||2|
|5||Shots on Target||7|
|9||Shots off Target||4|
Barclays Premier League
|4||West Ham United||17||31|
|15||West Bromwich Albion||17||17|
|16||Queens Park Rangers||17||17|