Larsson secures point for Blues
Roy Hodgson looked on from the stands as Sebastian Larsson denied Fulham their first away win of 2007.
By Rob Parrish
Last Updated: 29/12/07 9:10pm
New Fulham boss Roy Hodgson looked on from the stands as Sebastian Larsson denied the Cottagers their first away win of 2007.
Birmingham recovered from a dismal first-half display to secure a point against the 10-man visitors, with Hameur Bouzza given his marching orders 11 minutes from time for two second-half bookings.
Carlos Bocanegra had headed Fulham into the lead in the eighth minute as he escaped his marker to beat Maik Taylor at the near post from Simon Davies' corner.
But Larsson levelled 10 minutes into the second half as he collected Fabrice Muamba's astute through-ball and beat Antti Niemi from the edge of the box, although his shot took a big deflection off the unfortunate Elliot Omozusi.
Hodgson, who officially takes charge on Sunday after being brought in to replace the sacked Lawrie Sanchez, inherits a side deep in Premier League relegation danger and without an away league victory since their 2-1 triumph at Newcastle in September 2006.
Hodgson will be encouraged by the resilience shown by his side with Dejan Stefanovic dominating in the air at the heart of the visitors' defence.
But it needed one of the saves of the season from Antti Niemi to deny Franck Queudrue a spectacular winner.
Fulham showed more poise and composure in the opening period with Danny Murphy influential in midfield while Bouazza and Paul Konchesky exploited space down the left flank.
But Blues were a different proposition in the second period with Mehdi Nafti having a positive effect after his introduction in the centre of the park.
Fulham, showing five changes from the side hammered 5-1 at White Hart Lane, went close inside the first 30 seconds.
The recalled David Healy tried his luck from 25 yards and his fierce curling drive beat the stranded Blues keeper Taylor but floated inches wide.
The visitors began confidently and Murphy had a fierce shot blocked by Larsson but after four minutes Gary McSheffrey squandered a golden chance to put City ahead.
Mikael Forssell's pass released the former Coventry player who outstripped Konchesky to leave himself with only Niemi to beat but from eight yards out he lofted his shot over the bar.
This miss proved costly for the home side as after seven minutes slack marking allowed Bocanegra to put Fulham in front.
Bouazza won the first corner of the game which was taken by Davies and no-one picked up the run to the near post of Bocanegra who headed home.
Taylor then had to react sharply to cling onto a low first-time effort from Healy as both defences looked suspect in the swirling wind.
Birmingham defender Queudrue should have done better when found in space by Muamba on the left side of the Fulham box as he sliced his shot high over the bar.
Muamba burst in between two defenders and into the Fulham box but Niemi was well positioned to deal with his low drive away to his left.
The home side seemed almost incapable of dealing with crosses into the box and most of the problems were coming from the Fulham left flank.
Taylor saved a low effort from Clint Dempsey before Blues showed some signs of coming to life as half-time approached with Niemi getting his body behind a low shot on the turn from Forssell.
Blues dominated the opening period of the second half and after 55 minutes Larsson brought the home side back on level terms.
Muamba spotted the run of the Swedish international and he had time to cut inside and beat Niemi with a low deflected drive.
Nafti was only just too high with a dipping 25-yard drive with Fulham now completely on the defensive.
Niemi produced a superb save to turn over a rasping Queudrue volley after initially punching out a McSheffrey free-kick.Then came the red card for Bouazza who, having already been booked earlier in the half, was sent off after bringing down Queudrue.
|Birmingham City||Team Statistics||Fulham|
|0||1st Half Goals||1|
|5||Shots on Target||6|
|10||Shots off Target||4|