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Last Updated: Saturday, 12 April, 2003, 15:51 GMT 16:51 UK
Blues send Sunderland down
Bryan Hughes of Birmingham
Hughes grabbed the opener
Birmingham 2-0 Sunderland

Birmingham went a long way to ensuring life in the Premiership next season and put the final nail in the Sunderland's coffin with victory at St Andrews.

Bryan Hughes and Christophe Dugarry both scored their first goals in the Premiership as Birmingham moved six points clear of the drop zone.

Sunderland went into the game knowing they needed a win to have any chance of preserving their Premiership status.

There were moments of optimism early on for manager Mick McCarthy, who was missing 11 first team players and saw his side show plenty of commitment.

But with their confidence in front of goal at such a low, they rarely looked like avoiding a 10th successive league defeat and must now start preparing for life in the Nationwide.

Birmingham boss Steve Bruce again got maximum effort from his side and they will go into the final five games of the season knowing their future is very much in their own hands.

43 mins: Hughes starts the ball rolling for Birmingham
60 mins: Dugarry gets his first goal for the club
86 mins: Stewart is red-carded for Sunderland

With so much at stake for both sides it was not surprising that the game was often scrappy.

Sunderland's cause was not helped early on when Kevin Kyle was forced off for treatment after a clash with Dugarry.

Birmingham were unable to take advantage of the extra man as they struggled to string anything together.

The first real chance of the game fell to the home side from a Stan Lazaridis corner.

Dugarry found himself unmarked but his header was off target and Stephen Clemence's attempted backheel went wide.

Kyle returned to the pitch and was straight back into the action as he flashed a volley across the face of goal after being set up by Marcus Stewart.

Stewart was through himself but instead of shooting he opted to pass to Sean Thornton and Jamie Clapham was able to get back and distract the midfielder enough for him to lose his footing.

Kyle headed wide from a Gavin McCann free-kick, but Birmingham gradually began to assert themselves and they made the breakthrough on the stroke of half-time.

A dangerous cross from the left was punched by Mart Poom, who was making his debut for the club, but the ball fell to Hughes who did well to lob into an empty net from 30 yards.

Birmingham secured the three points when Dugarry ended his long wait for a goal with a simple header from close range.

It was the on-loan Frenchman's first goal for the club on his 11th appearance.

Stewart capped off another miserable day for Sunderland when he was sent off late on for kicking out at Birmingham substitute Stern John.

Birmingham: Bennett, Kenna, Cunningham, Upson, Clapham, Devlin (Carter 81), Hughes (Kirovski 84), Clemence, Lazaridis, Horsfield, Dugarry (John 64).
Subs Not Used: Marriott, Purse.

Sunderland: Poom, Williams, Bjorklund (McCartney 22), El Karkouri (Wright 55), Gray, Thornton, McCann, Kilbane, Phillips, Kyle, Stewart.
Subs Not Used: Proctor, Arca, Turns.

Sent Off: Stewart (86). Booked: McCartney.

Attendance: 29,132

Referee: P Dowd (Staffordshire).

Blues boss Steve Bruce
"Sunderland made it really, really difficult for us"

Sunderland boss Mick McCarthy
"We have to come back refreshed for the challenge next season"



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