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Birmingham City vs Brighton and Hove Albion. Sky Bet Championship.

St. Andrew's StadiumAttendance17,287.

Birmingham City 1

  • L Jutkiewicz (52nd minute)

Brighton and Hove Albion 2

  • A Knockaert (82nd minute)
  • G Murray (95th minute)

Birmingham 1-2 Brighton: Glenn Murray spoils Gianfranco Zola's return to English football

Highlights of Brighton's 2-1 win at Birmingham

Brighton scored twice in the final 15 minutes as they left it late to claim a 2-1 victory at Birmingham in the Sky Bet Championship on Saturday evening.

The Blues, who replaced Gary Rowett with Gianfranco Zola earlier this week, had had the better of the game's chances in the first half and hit the post inside the first minute as Maikel Kieftenbeld met Lukas Jutkiewicz's low cross, but the two sides went in level at the break.

New Birmingham manager Gianfranco Zola ahead of the Sky Bet Championship game with Brighton
Image: Over 17,000 were at St Andrew's to see the beginning of Gianfranco Zola's reign

Brighton had recorded few real chances in the first half and were made to pay after half-time as Jutkiewicz rose above Shane Duffy to nod home David Davis' stabbed cross.

Unbeaten since September in the league, Chris Hughton's men were always going to mount an attack and it came late on as Anthony Knockaert and Glenn Murray both scored to secure victory.

Brighton and Hove Albion's Glenn Murray celebrates scoring his teams 3rd goal against Blackburn Rovers, during the Sky Bet Championship match at Ewood Park
Image: Glenn Murray scored the winner for Brighton at Birmingham

The game came at the end of a tumultuous week in the Midlands that had seen the seemingly successful Rowett ruthlessly removed from the Blues helm and replaced by Zola - the former Chelsea striker, last seen in English football when he left Watford in 2013.

Keen to keep the fans onside, Zola kept the side as Rowett had left it, with just one enforced change coming in the shape of Greg Stewart, replacing the injured Clayton Donaldson.

Birmingham City manager Gianfranco Zola during the Sky Bet Championship match v Brighton at St Andrew's, Birmingham
Image: Zola watches on from the dug-out

But the managerial crisis of midweek was almost forgotten when Birmingham struck the woodwork inside the first minute of the game.

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As the Brighton defence surrendered possession on the edge of the area, Jutkiewicz picked up the ball and hit what looked like a poor shot at goal. In fact, he had spotted the run of Kieftenbeld on the opposite side of the box, the Dutch midfielder meeting the cross first time and crashing his shot against the post. He probably should have done better.

Brighton manager Chris Hughton claimed that despite not performing at their best, they found a way to win against Birmingham

It was a half of few chances, particularly for the visitors, whose sole opportunity to trouble Tomasz Kuszczak in the first period came when Knockaert beat Lewis Dunk on the edge of the area. He continued his run and took aim at the near post; the Blues' keeper was equal to the effort.

As the half wore on, the two sides battled for possession - although neither was worried about upping the tempo - but while David Cotterill had clearly left his shooting boots in the changing room, Jonathan Grounds was almost celebrating when he curled a shot goalwards; Duffy felt the full force of the shot as he headed it away and took a few moments to regain a full grasp of reality.

He couldn't help but feel reality early in the second half however, as Jutkiewicz leapt above him to meet Davis' poked cross and nod a header past David Stockdale and over the line.

Birmingham City's Lukas Jutkiewicz celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game v Brighton during the Sky Bet Championship match at St Andrew's
Image: Lukas Jutkiewicz celebrates his opener for Birmingham

As expected, this goal sparked the visitors into life and just after an hour had passed, Hughton decided that a double substitution was required. As dramatic as it sounds, one of those was to change the course of the game.

Possession statistics in the final 20 minutes showed 70 per cent in favour of the Seagulls, and they played a very high line as they searched for the equaliser that would prevent their three-month unbeaten run coming to a close.

Jutkiewicz was keen to add to his tally and tested Stockdale with 10 minutes to play, before the game began to sway in Brighton's favour when Knockaert netted an equaliser with eight minutes remaining.

New Birmingham manager Gianfranco Zola claims there are plenty of positives to take from the Brighton game, despite losing 2-1

Solly March was the substitute that changed the game and it was his cross from the byline that was expertly finished by Knockaert - an emotional first goal since the death of his father last month.

The tempo continued to build in favour of Brighton and the comeback was completed by Murray deep into second-half stoppage time, when he met the Frenchman's corner and flicked the ball beyond Kuszczak to complete the comeback.

Glenn Murray celebrates after scoring for Brighton
Image: Murray wheels away in delight after striking late on for the visitors

Birmingham boss Gianfranco Zola:

"I feel for the players because to lose a game in this way is really painful.

"I felt like in the second half we were physically going down a little bit - we were dropping deeper too much but that was a little bit because of our physical condition, but also down to the strength of Brighton.

"I was expecting that but honestly until that moment, there were not too many shots, not too many threats to the goalkeeper so I was hoping for it to end up better.

"I'm very pleased with the performance of the players so I cannot complain. I'm looking forward to starting working and trying to help them as much as possible. If we see that we can improve in any way then we will.

"Lukas is going very well - he scored a great goal today but also his performance was magnificent, he's been helping the team through other games so he was happy to get a goal but it didn't bring anything in terms of points."

Gianfranco Zola and Chris Hughton pictured ahead of Birmingham v Brighton
Image: Zola and Chris Hughton greet each other before kick-off

Brighton boss Chris Hughton

"I think we showed great spirit at the end. Young Solly March, I thought, was excellent. When he came on for that last period we went a lot more direct, put a lot more bodies in there and I can understand the other side - we've all been there. But I think we showed great spirit, but in the first half we certainly weren't at our best.

"We are going through a big period of games and you have to make some changes - it's very difficult and you can't be at your best all the time, particularly in this division. Having said that, I certainly didn't feel so threatened as the other aside - I thought we were giving away too much and we were giving them opportunities so we probably cancelled each other out. Great goal by Jutkiewicz who does that really well and you've got to show him credit like that.

"We've got good movement and if we persist enough we know we can get opportunities and sometimes you need to leave it until late in the game and certainly today was one of those examples.

"That goal will do him [Knockaert] the world of good - his level of performance has probably dropped a bit. But sometimes that can just be down to the type of player you are - he started the season really well, took a little bit of a dip but he is one player that can still produced something on any given day."

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