Birmingham strike back to reach Carling Cup final

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

LONDON - Birmingham City came from two goals behind to beat West Ham United 3-1 in the second leg Wednesday and reach the Carling Cup final by a 4-3 aggregate.

Carlton Cole put West Ham 3-1 up on aggregate with a remarkable long-range effort, but Birmingham were much improved after half-time, and pulled level with goals from Lee Bowyer and Roger Johnson.

Craig Gardner, having hit the post twice in normal time, squeezed a drive inside the same upright to win the game four minutes in to extra time.

West Ham had much the better of the early stages, but struggled to create clear chances.

Cole snatched at a volley after being put through by a ball over the top, and that was as close as West Ham, for all their territorial possession, came until, on the half hour, the forward took a throw-in in his stride and smashed a swerving shot from 35 yards that dipped and bent past Ben Foster.

The introduction of giant striker Nikola Zigic at half-time gave Birmingham a different option, and it was from his knockdown that Craig Gardner drilled a shot against the most seven minutes into the second half.

Liam Ridgewell saw a firm header turned wide by Rob Green, but from the resulting corner, Bowyer struck, lashing in to the top corner from a Zigic knockdown.

It was another corner that led to Birmingham’s second, Johnson heading powerfully past Green with 12 minutes to go.

Green then denied Cameron Jerome in a one-on-one, and Gardner had a drive touched on to the post by the goalkeeper.

Having hit the woodwork twice, though, Gardner at last got his reward four minutes into extra-time, his swerving, dipping shot from 20 yards sliding in off Green’s glove.

Cole went close with an overhead, and David Murphy would have sealed it for Birmingham but for a fine save from Green, but 3-1 on the night was enough.

Birmingham face Arsenal in the final.

Filed under: Soccer

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