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  • Birmingham City 2-1 Blackburn Rovers: Gardner double

    Craig Gardner struck twice as Birmingham came from behind against Blackburn Rovers to win a thrilling Premier League contest 2-1 at St Andrews.

    An action packed first half finished goalless, before the real drama unfolded five minutes into the second. Nikola Zigic wrestled Christopher Samba to the ground inside the box and the referee rightly pointed to the spot.

    But Ben Foster got the better of the penalty taker as he turned Morten Gamst Pedersen's ferocious left foot rocket onto the bar.

    Just when City thought they had escaped, Steven N'Zonzi punished them for some slack marking as he headed home a long throw from Pedersen.

    Their lead was short lived as moments later James McFadden set-up Gardner for the equaliser. With just under 20 minutes to play the midfielder was at it again, firing a shot from distance past Paul Robinson.

    The match got off to a quick start, with both teams attacking with verve and energy as they looked to seize the initiative.

    Rovers shaded the opening exchanges as they endeavoured to hit Birmingham on the counter, utilising the pace of wingers El-Hadji Diouf and Pedersen, who tried to feed Nikola Kalinic at the earliest opportunity.

    Sam Allardyce had clearly instructed his team to test the handling of City goalkeeper Foster as the guests tried to put pressure on the former Manchester United custodian with long balls into the box. But Foster was up to the task and dealt with the deliveries astutely.

    The England stopper was called into action as the game passed the 20 minute mark as Pedersen whipped a ball into the box from the right.

    His cross was turned goalwards by Samba and Foster scrambled across his line to turn the effort wide.

    After surviving Rovers' opening gambit, the home side began to impose themselves on the game and created the best chance of the match half an hour in.

    A corner from the left by Sebastian Larsson found Liam Ridgewell loping into the six yard box. He directed a powerful header down the throat of Robinson, who showed sharp reflexes to palm the ball over the bar.

    An entertaining half, full of purpose and gusto, but no cutting edge finished goalless. The players showed no sign of tiring as they flew out the traps after the interval.

    Five minutes into the second period and Rovers were awarded a penalty after Zigic hauled down Samba in the box.

    Pedersen rifled the spot kick towards the top-left corner, but Foster was equal to it, diverting the shot onto the bar and away.

    Rovers fired another warning shot when a long throw from the Norwegian was headed goalwards by N'Zonzi, but yet again Foster stood in the way as he tipped it over.

    The home side did not pay heed to this and from the resulting corner Pedersen stood a cross up for N'Zonzi at the near post and he got in front of Scott Dann to head past a stranded Foster.

    The visitors' lead lasted just three minutes. Stephen Carr launched a long ball into the Rovers box, which McFadden volleyed to the back post for the arriving Gardner.

    The industrious midfielder made no mistake from close range to level the scores. Just as City were patting themselves on the back for a job well done Kalinic nearly made them pay as Rovers swept up field with retaliatory intent.

    The striker cut inside from the right and looked to find the bottom left hand corner with a low shot that Foster did well to get down to.

    There was nothing he could have done about Kalinic's header had it been an inch to the right. Yet again it was a pin point delivery from Pedersen that caused chaos.

    His cross found the Croatian unmarked six yards out, but he could only find the left hand post with Foster cemented to his spot.

    Rovers' prolifigacy in front of goal was to prove costly, as Gardner struck again. The former Aston Villa man broke from midfield and unleashed a low drive that skimmed past the outstretched Robinson and into the bottom right hand corner of the net.

    It was nothing more than Gardner deserved for an inspirational performance in the City engine room. In an exciting finish to the game, both sides squandered chances as Birmingham picked up their first win of the season.
    Ben Welch / Eurosport


    Team Line-up:

    Blackburn: Robinson, Salgado, Samba, Nelsen, Givet, El-Hadji Diouf, Jones, Olsson, Pedersen, Nzonzi, Kalinic. Subs: Bunn, Jacobsen, Emerton, Hoilett, Judge, Morris, Mame Diouf.
    Birmingham: Foster, Carr, Johnson, Dann, Ridgewell, Larsson, Ferguson, Gardner, McFadden, Jerome, Zigic. Subs: Taylor, Murphy, Bowyer, O'Connor, Derbyshire, Michel, Fahey.


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