Birmingham 2-1 Middlesbrough: Odin Bailey scores first professional goal as Blues end losing run
Report and highlights from the Sky Bet Championship clash at St Andrew's
By Dan Long
Last Updated: 05/10/19 7:20am
Odin Bailey's first senior goal earned Birmingham a dramatic 2-1 win over Middlesbrough at St Andrew's on Friday night to end a three-match losing streak.
Rampant in front of goal from the first whistle, the Blues took the lead when Fran Villalba swept home his first goal for the club (33), but they could have been out of sight by the break were it not for the inspired performance of Boro goalkeeper Darren Randolph.
A pulsating encounter throughout, there was great drama in the final three minutes as Dani Ayala bundled Britt Assombalonga's cross home at the far post (87).
But Pep Clotet's men restored their lead inside 120 seconds when 19-year-old Bailey headed Dan Crowley's deep cross over the line to leave the struggling visitors searching for their first away win of the season.
How the Blues extended Boro's woes on the road
Given their recent run of defeats, it was only natural for the Blues to come out all guns blazing in order to avenge them and within three minutes, Villalba had forced Randolph into a magnificent reaction stop after meeting Maxime Colin's cross.
It was the first of a string of saves for the stopper against his former employers, including two where he had to tip over goal-bound clearances from his own team-mates: Ryan Shotton and Dael Fry.
Full-back Colin was lively on the right flank and provided the assist for the opening goal, finding the lively Villalba with a low cross that the ex-Valencia midfielder powerfully swept into the bottom right corner.
The pressure continued to build and Randolph was almost left red-faced on the stroke of half-time when he went close to dropping Harlee Dean's looping header, with Kristian Pedersen heading onto the underside of the bar soon after.
Woodgate's men did improve after the break and called Lee Camp into action with around 20 minutes to play, when Paddy McNair's cross was palmed clear of the six-yard box, but it was in similar circumstances that they equalised late on.
Birmingham boss Pep Clotet made two changes to the side that lost 1-0 to Wigan on Tuesday, with Jude Bellingham and Marc Roberts replacing Jake Clarke-Salter and Gary Gardner. His opposite number Jonathan Woodgate kept faith with the same starting 11 that drew 1-1 against Preston in midweek.
Defender Harlee Dean was caught in possession by Britt Assombalonga, who dinked a cross to the far post, allowing Ayala to bundle home and, seemingly, leave the hosts to rue missed chances.
But Bailey - who has been at the club since joining as an U7 - reacted quickest to nod Crowley's cross past Randolph at the far post to secure the victory for Birmingham.
Man of the match - Ivan Sunjic
The Croatian midfielder was right at the heart of the action at St Andrew's, not least because his experience and defensive ability allowed 16-year-old Jude Bellingham the licence to roam forward.
Sunjic - only 22 himself - looked at ease against Boro, with perhaps his most important intervention coming inside the final 10 minutes when he superbly slid in to dispossess Assombalonga on the edge of the area to prevent the forward extending the streak that has seen him score four goals in four games against the Blues during his time on Teesside.
What the managers said...
Birmingham boss Pep Clotet: "Today I think we managed to join a performance with a result in the way that we want to. As I said before the game, our performances have been very good lately and today is another good performance.
"It's very important for us to put that performance that we had in away games - even though we weren't getting the results - in front of our fans. I think our fans were immense and helped us through the game because we struggled in certain periods. I'm so happy because everything was joined."
Middlesbrough boss Jonathan Woodgate: "We didn't play well at all. They deserved to be winning, even at couple at half-time, but Randolph was exceptional. Second half we got back into the game - don't ask me how we get back into it, but that's the Championship for you.
"I'm frustrated that we conceded that last goal, really frustrated. Listen, we've got a break now and then we move onto the next game."
Is Jonathan Woodgate under pressure?
Sky Sports reporter Caroline Barker quizzed the Middlesbrough boss after the full-time whistle and this is how he responded during a fiery exchange…
"I was under pressure as soon as I took the job. I put pressure on myself - that'll be no different. I get on with it. I'm the type of person that can take the pressure - that goes without question. I roll my sleeves up, look at myself first and foremost before I look at my players, put it like that.
"I don't want to be down the bottom end of the table; those players are better than that in that changing room and they know that themselves. I hope they are hurting as much as me because it hurts when you get beat like that.
"I wouldn't be stood in front of you if I did [doubt myself]. I'll be back into work and I'll be grafting. I'll roll my sleeves up and I hope the players are going to follow me. I've only had the job 11 games. There was a plan put into process, so I don't think anyone's hitting the alarm buttons yet.
"If you look at last season, Preston had five points after 10 games. You go on a run in this league and it can take you forward. It's not how you start - I said this yesterday in my press conference - it's how you finish. You finish strong."
The second international break of the season means there's no Sky Bet Championship action next weekend, with teams back in action on the weekend of October 19/20. Both sides are in action on the Saturday: Birmingham travel to Elland Road to face Leeds, with Middlesbrough welcoming West Brom to the Riverside Stadium.