Gritty Blues frustrate Gunners
Birmingham City battled hard to secure a shock point against Arsenal as they came from behind to draw 1-1 at Emirates Stadium.
By James Dall
Last Updated: 12/01/08 5:25pm
Alex McLeish's Birmingham City battled hard to secure a shock point against Arsenal as they came from behind to draw 1-1 at Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners dominated the early stages of the first half and took the lead through Emmanuel Adebayor's penalty; however Garry O'Connor's header ensured Blues went home with a point.
The opener came in controversial circumstances when referee Phil Dowd pointed to the penalty spot after Stephen Kelly appeared to win the ball when he challenged Eduardo da Silva from behind.
Adebayor made no mistake with his spot-kick, but Arsenal failed to push on and get the second that would have surely killed off the game.
And they were punished on 48 minutes when O'Connor headed home former Gunner Sebastian Larsson's corner to stun the home crowd and send the pocket of away fans delirious.
The Gunners - watched by former England captain David Beckham, currently training at Arsenal's Hertfordshire complex - have not lost at home for more than 20 matches, and again started brightly.
In the second minute, full-back Gael Clichy whipped the ball over from the left into the penalty box, where Eduardo glanced a header some way wide.
Theo Walcott made space for himself down the right and floated over a cross, which was just too high for Eduardo.
Adebayor then nipped in ahead of Rafael Schmitz, but as the Birmingham defender chased back the Arsenal striker knocked the ball too far and goalkeeper Maik Taylor was out quickly to block in the six-yard box.
The visitors went up the other end and almost snatched the lead after 15 minutes.
Cameron Jerome latched on to an angled through-ball in between the centre-backs and into the left side of the Arsenal penalty area.
His low shot looked to be heading towards the bottom far corner, only for Manuel Almunia to produce a one-handed save at full stretch.
The goalkeepers were taking centre stage, as Taylor made a superb reflex save to deny Eduardo from point-blank range following Alex Hleb's cross from the left. However, the Brazil-born Croatia international - with six goals in his last five games - perhaps could have done better with his header, which was straight at the Birmingham stopper.
Arsenal were awarded a penalty after 20 minutes when Kelly went through the back of Eduardo - and although the defender may have got some of the ball eventually, referee Phil Dowd pointed to the spot.
Adebayor stepped up to coolly slot his 13th goal of the season into the bottom right corner, just out of Taylor's reach.
At the other end, Olivier Kapo went down in the Arsenal penalty area following a challenge from Philippe Senderos - with the Birmingham fans behind the goal left less than impressed when the referee waved play on.
To their credit Alex McLeish's men did not sit back themselves, and tried to take the game to the Premier League leaders, with some success down the right flank.
Gunners goalkeeper Almunia - who has declared his willingness to take UK citizenship to qualify for the England team - was out quickly to boot clear a quick long ball, which the busy Kapo was fast chasing down.
Out of nothing, Birmingham were level three minutes into the second half.
A corner from former Gunner Sebastian Larsson on the left was sent into the Arsenal six-yard box and O'Connor headed the ball down, which took a deflection off Cesc Fabregas and bounced up past the wrong-footed Almunia.
Arsenal were soon back on the offensive and Fabregas' pass picked out Adebayor, who saw his shot from just inside the Birmingham penalty area blocked bravely by Liam Ridgewell.
Taylor then got down quickly at the back post to keep out Senderos' downward header from a free-kick on the right.
Tempers flared over on the far side when Hleb and Ridgewell squared up, with the referee eventually showing yellow cards to both men.
Fabregas drove a low shot wide from the edge of the box following a quick throw-out by Almunia and Hleb's dash down the left.
Arsenal continued to press as the match entered the final 20 minutes. Clichy drove in a fierce angled shot from 25 yards, but it was straight at Taylor.
Nicklas Bendtner dragged a low shot across goal following a neat exchange between Hleb and Fabregas.
The Gunners upped the tempo, with Mathieu Flamini's low strike forcing Taylor into action once again.However, despite plenty of possession in the Birmingham half, and shots from all angles, Arsenal just could not conjure up a winner.
|Arsenal||Team Statistics||Birmingham City|
|1||1st Half Goals||0|
|6||Shots on Target||2|
|8||Shots off Target||1|