Redknapp rues missed chances
BIRMINGHAM CITY 1
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1
There is no disgrace in drawing at a ground where Birmingham City have lost once in 27 matches, but after leading for so long this felt like a missed opportunity for Tottenham Hotspur.
Ahead through Sebastien Bassong's early goal, Spurs were nine minutes away from picking up a result that would have given some real substance to Harry Redknapp's claim that they could be genuine title contenders, when Craig Gardner headed an equaliser.
It was arguably a fair outcome after Birmingham showed a marked improvement in the second half, although Redknapp and his players will curse the chances Spurs had to double their advantage before Gardner's goal. Peter Crouch looked like a striker with one Premier League goal to his name this season as he squandered a couple of opportunities before Jermain Defoe, who was making his first start for three months, shot inches wide in the second half after darting in from the right.
Birmingham, however, are resilient opponents, as they demonstrated when they defeated Chelsea here a couple of weeks ago, and there was a sense that a goal might be coming as they started to crank up the pressure late in the second half.
The introduction of Nikola Zigic made a considerable difference, as Birmingham reverted from 4-5-1 to 4-4-2, and it was the giant Serbian's header from Roger Johnson's diagonal ball that created the opening for Gardner to nod in his fifth goal of the season.
"I thought we would win today," Redknapp said. "At half-time I felt sure we could win. I couldn't see any other result than three points. But when they brought Zigic on -- I've seen him before and I think that's the best I have ever seen him play -- they started hitting him on the diagonals and he won a few headers. They pinned us in a little bit."
Tottenham could count themselves fortunate not to finish with 10 men after Alan Hutton appeared to butt David Murphy in the chest after a poor challenge from the Birmingham substitute in injury-time. Whether Hutton will be punished for the incident remains to be seen. "I know I might sound like some other manager," said Redknapp, "but I swear I don't know what he did."
Bassong's goal came after Ben Foster made a hash of dealing with Gareth Bale's whipped free-kick. Tottenham were dominant at that stage, but Birmingham carried a much greater threat in the second half and came close to an equaliser when Liam Ridgewell broke through on the left only to be denied by Heurelho Gomes.
Two minutes later Birmingham had the goal they craved when Zigic teed up Gardner, much to Alex McLeish's delight. "That was Zigic's most effective performance," the Birmingham manager said. "That's exactly what we are after."