Birmingham City 0-2 Fulham

That was painful. Fulham were excellent, but so bad were Birmingham that the victory seemed almost cruel.

Why should I care? I think it’s that about a year ago Birmingham and Fulham seemed so similar: defensively very sound, occasionally prone to lack of invention, but good enough to win enough games to stay in the league. Now we’ve moved on and Birmingham look a shambles. Today they started with the polite combination of Kevin Phillips and Matt Derbyshire up front, two decent players in the right system, but the right system is one that’ll give them chances. As it was the pair of them might as well have played conkers by the corner flag for 90 minutes for all the good they did.

And it probably isn’t their fault. Birmingham have that solid axis of Ferguson and Bowyer in the middle of the pitch, a combination that does its job fairly well, and the flair of Larsen and Bentley on the wings. So far so good, right? Not a bit of it. Somehow the whole unit ceased to be. It was like playing against a team of hungover ex-pros.  In the past any attacking deficiencies have been papered over by a rugged ‘thou shalt not pass’ defence, but Fulham swept through that with ease. We scored two, and both from set pieces, but there could have been many more.

The first came after Mark Schwarzer sent a bomb of a goal kick over everyone. Ben Foster was on another planet as the ball sped towards him, his faculties returning in the nick of time for him to paw the ball wide for a corner. Smiles all around, but not for long, as Greening’s cross dropped into the six yard box, where Brede Hangeland was simultaneously soaring and stooping to head home.

Fulham were passing the ball around with great comfort, a nifty mix of nice close passing and direct pumps for AJ and Zamora to work on. These two reminded us why Roy Hodgson had liked the idea of them in the first place, and Birmingham didn’t know what to do about it. On the left Greening was a revelation, looking for all the world like a slightly trickier version of David Beckham with his twisting work against Stephen Carr (I have recently seen a photo of Stanley Matthews attacking Jimmy Langley, the duel being fought on the back of a combined 84 years of age, or similar; seeing Greening skinning the less than speedy Carr brought this to mind, for some reason).  Greening’s passing and crossing was devilish, and it was nice for him to play so well on his return to the side.

On it went, men against upset but not combative boys for the most part.  In the second half Fulham scored early again.  Zamora missed two takeable chances, Sidwell hit the post, then another Greening corner saw chaos in the Birmingham area before Hangeland lolleyed a volley into the net from eight yards. Two for the big man.

Zamora went off and Gudjohnsen came on, and Birmingham finally got a bit of momentum, but not to the point where Fulham were troubled. Eighth place for Mark Hughes’ side, who are flying.

14 thoughts on “Birmingham City 0-2 Fulham

  1. That Hangeland soaring yet stooping header is becoming his trademark. One of those moves I look out for and get the tingle of an expected goal every time. What a player.

  2. Dare we dream of 7th place? Both Arsenal & Everton seem to be in free fall a bit and The Toffees have Chelsea next week. Maybe a Torres hat trick?

    I still think the biggest need for 11/12 season is a left back, maybe a right back too. Wayne Bridge or is he a little past it? I would not like to see Johnson go to WBA as speculated and if we can keep him, Zamora & Gudjohnson up front I’d be happy. As far as Gera goes I think QPR would be a good switch for him and I would wish him all the best and give him a warm welcome when he’s back at The Cottage, same goes for Pantsil. Greeening was a bit of a revelation yesterday on the left, admittedly against a very poor Birmingham side. I’m hoping Hughes has a good pool of players to choose from and picks the side that will exploit the opposition best up front and in midfield but a solid settled defence.

  3. What’s with all the yellow cards? That’s about ten in the past two games – very un-Fulham like. Are the players trying to disqualify themselves from Europa? Pity if thats the case as the early games would be a great opportunity to blood some young/fringe players and much better then playing Brentford or Weymouth or something. Thoughts? Are we still in the running anyway?

    1. Agree about all the yellow cards. What’s going on and where does it leave us in the fair play league? Can relegated clubs go into the Europa League? I notice that Blackpool aren’t too far behind us.

      Greening reminded me of the young winger he used to be at Man U.

      And congratulations to Chris Smalling. By the end of the month he could have a Champions League winner’s medal to add to his collection.

      1. “Can relegated clubs go into the Europa League?”

        Well, um… Birmingham City might. Pretty sure they’re in regardless of whether they go down after winning the League Cup.

  4. Seems we are still in the running. Although its hard to fathom. England have a Fair Play place, definite. However, last premiere league fair play table is a couple of weeks old: Spurs were neck and neck with us. If they win their last game (Birmingham at home) then they get into Europa through league position. They might also get in if they lose and liverpool also lose.

    Not sure how the 10 yellow cards (and Baird’s “v” sign and Gudjohnson’s cynical foul which should have been a red) impacts though….. hopefully not too disastorously.

  5. The Fair Play League is decided between 1st May 2010 and 30th April 2011 – meaning that the end of the season can become a free-for-all for all intents and purposes.
    The only concern is Spurs being level – not sure what would happen with the place if they didn’t qualify through position – and they’ve played a game less. I can only imagine that extra game would have been full of fouls, bookings, swearing at the ref and general skullduggery, so the place is Fulham’s!

  6. Guardian Sport are saying that we are top of the Fair Play league with one game left to play. Blackpool are the only team realistically close enough to catch us; so, as long as avoid a red card or a flurry of yellows in the game against Arsenal we should find ourselves in the First Qualifying Round come July! Blackpool would probably also need to have a near-spotless game disciplinary-wise to stand a chance.

    Europe here we come!

  7. Not sure that’s right, Richard. There was a debate on another thread. UEFA allocate the countries their places on basis of end April (true), so England have one. But then the FA decides how to allocate that space itself and – the thinking was – that that was on the basis of a full English season.

    1. That’s disappointing. I quite liked the idea of a free-for-all. That and playing in the darkest depths of darkest Deeplania in June could be fun!!

  8. Has McLeish completely lost his influence over his players? For a team that should have been playing with a fire under their collective rear ends in their last home match of the season and trying to avoid relegation, they looked like they hardly cared a lot of the time. And, for our part, Fulham now seem to be a team that’s good enough to capitalize on that, even when there’s no real motivation for our guys to play hard; in past years I think this match would’ve had 0-0 written all over it.

    But man, how awesome would it have been if Foster had missed that bounce and Schwarzer had scored a goal?

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