Agony for Villa as Zigic grabs deflected winner
Aston Villa 1
He's 6' 7'' (and a half) and this morning Nikola Zigic will walk even taller after his mis-hit, deflected, scruffy late goal took Birmingham into the last four of the Carling Cup and earned a famous victory over their bitter city rivals Aston Villa.
Never mind the quality of this one as the giant striker strode onto Cameron Jerome's cross. It was also Birmingham's first win in a cup competition in 11 attempts against their noisy neighbours and what a slice of history on a bitter and bitterly cold evening.
However tough it was on Villa -- and it was -- there is no denying Gerard Houllier is quickly being enveloped in a sense of crisis as he tries to re-shape the team and steady the ship. That may be for the future. For now bragging rights have been surrendered.
The win was marred somewhat by a mass pitch invasion at the end, with Birmingham fans goading the Villa supporters and seats being thrown in retaliation. If this contest needed an icebreaker -- surely not, given the white-hot temperature on a potentially white-out evening -- then it quickly arrived.
Villa held sway in the early skirmishes but Birmingham took the early advantage. Villa have stuttered of late and here they were tripping up again through a trip -- Ireland's Richard Dunne catching Lee Bowyer as he rushed into the penalty area to meet Jerome's neat reverse pass.
Dunne's trip allowed Sebastian Larsson to calmly side-foot his penalty into the centre of the goal with Brad Friedel committed.
Having failed to score in their last three meetings with Villa, Birmingham had taken the lead inside 12 minutes. If the blue (and claret and blue) touchpaper needed lighting, then it was now well and truly lit, with Villa playing the more progressive football.
Still, it was Birmingham showing the greater threat and Zigic should have scored when he was picked out by Larsson. The Serb's control let him down (how many times has that been written?) as he attempted to shoot.
Sadly, Zigic threw himself to the turf, desperately seeking another penalty. He should have been booked but wasn't.
But salt was rubbed into Birmingham when Villa equalised. Jonathan Hogg ran forward and, despite slipping, managed to squeeze the ball to Gabriel Agbonlahor inside the area. All too easily Agbonlahor turned and screwed his shot back across goal to beat Ben Foster.
But the final word went to Zigic and his dramatic intervention. (© Daily Telegraph, London)