Stan spot on as Blues progress
By Ben Blackmore. Last Updated: 29/11/05 10:25pm
Birmingham booked themselves a place in the quarter finals of the Carling Cup, but they were taken all the way to penalties by a hardworking Millwall side at The New Den.
Stan Lazaridis struck the all-important winning penalty for Blues, after The Lions twice hit back through goals from Alan Dunne and Marvin Elliott to cancel out earlier efforts from Julian Gray and Emile Heskey.
The game started slowly, with both sides playing the kind of unconfident football that is expected of teams occupying the relegation spots in their respective leagues.
However, Birmingham suddenly slipped into a smoother gear on the 10-minute mark, opening Millwall up with the first noteworthy attack of the match.
Mario Melchiot stepped away from two challenges to roll the ball into the muscular Heskey, who played a smart one-two with Walter Pandiani before finding a gaping hole on the right side of the hosts' defence for Gray to open the scoring.
The goal was the high point of low octane first half, with neither side producing much to admire. Birmingham always appeared to be in control and it was they who looked the more likely to add to their lead, albeit due to the generous defending of their hosts.
To be fair to Colin Lee, The Lions had been robbed of several defensive options ahead of the clash, due to the absences of Matt Lawrence, Mark Phillips and Ady Williams, and their only hope appeared to rest on the shoulders of the ever-dangerous Dunne.
However, Gray was being given the freedom of The New Den's left side in the first half, and Heskey should have benefited as the winger cut the ball back, but the former Liverpool man blasted woefully over.
Millwall then had the chance to level themselves as Jermaine Wright missed an even better chance, stabbing the ball wide from 10 yards when the goal was at his mercy.
The Lions had been forced into the emergency loan signing of goalkeeper Lenny Pidgeley ahead of the tie in order to cover for Colin Doyle, who is on loan from Birmingham. And the Chelsea man proved his worth late on in the first 45 minutes as he followed up a smart save from Matthew Upson with another good stop from Stephen Clemence's angled shot.
The start of the second half almost threw up a carbon copy of Birmingham's opening goal, as the impressive Melchiot strode forward yet again, before moving the ball onto Gray via Pandiani, but the youngster opted to cross rather than shoot and the opportunity was wasted.
And the visitors were soon made to regret that moment, as Dunne suddenly took it upon himself to haul The Lions back into the Cup tie with a simply sublime effort. The Millwall wideman won the ball deep in Birmingham's half, before curling the ball into the far top corner with his left foot, leaving Nico Vaesen no chance.
The goal sprung the game into life and the home side began to roar forward as the adrenaline surged through Lee's side, forcing Steve Bruce to respond with the introduction of David Dunn.
The Lions' good work was then nearly undone by another rash piece of defending as Heskey pounced on a hopelessly short backpass, but the England man failed to find the open net from a tight angle after rounding the goalkeeper.
Millwall's workrate was more than compensating for any football that Birmingham were putting together, and they should have been celebrating a second goal with 10 minutes remaining. Barry Hayles worked well in a tight spot near the corner flag before producing a fine cross to the near post, where Ben May inexplicably prodded the ball wide.
The game inevitably moved into extra time and it was Birmingham who looked to have stolen the honours, as Heskey reacted quickest to a loose ball in the Millwall area to stab home from one yard.
However, The Lions had given every ounce of energy all night, and they were not about to give up without a fight. Roared on by the home support, Elliott strode forward to release an explosive 20-yard strike into the bottom corner of Vaesen's net.
Cue penalties, and rare joy for Bruce's men as Birmingham progressed to the quarter finals.
|Millwall||Team Statistics||Birmingham City|
|0||1st Half Goals||1|
|3||Shots on Target||7|
|6||Shots off Target||10|