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Page last updated at 18:51 GMT, Sunday, 27 February 2011

Sunday football as it happened


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By Chris Bevan

1850: And that is a wrap from me. A great day for Birmingham, who end their 48-year wait for a trophy by lifting the Carling Cup, and a bad day for Arsenal, who after six years are still waiting to get their hands on some silverware. Not a bad afternoon if you support West Ham either - just six points separate the bottom 11 teams after their win over Liverpool - but a frustrating one for Manchester City fans, after their side were held by Fulham. You can see the goals from all Sunday's Premier League games on Match of the Day 2 tonight at 2200 GMT (On BBC Two and this website in the UK), followed by highlights from Wembley in The League Cup Show at 2300 GMT (ditto). Join Pranav Soneji for Stoke v West Brom on Monday, and I will see you very soon. Cheerio.

FULL-TIME Arsenal 1-2 Birmingham
Chief football writer Phil McNulty reports from Wembley: "Birmingham were a model of determination and resilience as well as positive intent and their success is a tribute to the outstanding work of manager Alex McLeish."

FULL-TIME West Ham 3-1 Liverpool
Mandeep Sanghera reports: "Scott Parker was immense. If West Ham can carry on producing the performance which helped them deservedly beat Liverpool then Premier League safety beckons."

FULL-TIME Manchester City 1-1 Fulham
Jonathan Stevenson reports: "Super Mario had his sizzling say, but City were Duff long before deadly Damien ensured the spoils would be shared."

1839: All in all, quite an afternoon of football. This is how our reporters saw it...

S_1993_B on Twitter: "Think Wenger will take the loss on the chin and FINALLY sort out his goalkeeping/central defensive problems? No, me neither."

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger on his side's Carling Cup final defeat: "A little misunderstanding had great consequences for the result. After that there was no time to come back and rectify it. I blame nobody, these kind of things are part of the game. It is very disappointing but we have to pick ourselves up for the next games - it is a good opportunity to show our mental strength, which I believe is is great."

1829: Arsenal's next game? Their FA Cup fifth-round replay against Leyton Orient at the Emirates on Wednesday. Their season really will collapse if they lose that one. Let's not write them off just yet though. Today has been hugely disappointing for Arsene Wenger's men but they are still in the hunt for three trophies.

More from BBC Sport pundit Lee Dixon at Wembley on Arsenal's problems: "Cesc Fabregas has the captain's armband but he is not a natural leader. Arsene Wenger is on the side of the pitch organising things but they haven't got someone like that on the pitch."

From anonymous Arsenal fan via text: "There's a lot we have to learn from this. For me, the defensive issues are fixable, Rosicky's continued useless performances aren't. And well fought and won Birmingham."

Birmingham centre-back Roger Johnson, who played on despite being injured in the second half: "I was never coming off, I think I pulled my calf. I'm pleased I didn't, what a time to win it! First and foremost we have done it for us, the club and the fans."

1822: Ben Foster got a hearty handshake from England boss Fabio Capello when he went to receive his winners' medal, and man-of-the-match award too. That was a fantastic Wembley performance from the Birmingham keeper, who made a series of superb second-half saves while the score was still 1-1.

DLJaggs on Twitter: "Birmingham's win just proves that underdogs, with hard work and determination can win anything. Great result for football."

BBC Sport pundit Lee Dixon at Wembley: "Birmingham deserve all the plaudits. Alex McLeish set them up in a certain way and it worked in the first half. They got their rewards although for all the good things that Birmingham did, Arsenal were poor. In every department Birmingham were better and their midfield was really good."

From anonymous Arsenal fan, via text: "Birmingham wanted it more than us - fact. Congratulations, a well earned win."

BBC Sport pundit Alan Hansen at Wembley: "Birmingham were absolutely magnificent. With half an hour to go, half of their players were dead on the pitch. It was an education in spirit and togetherness, and they thoroughly deserve it."

Champagne moment
1813: I hate to over-use a graphic but the champagne really is flowing at Wembley now. Birmingham have filled the Carling Cup with it and all their players are having a swig. Their fans are still there too, soaking up the atmosphere... but pretty much every one of the Arsenal supporters has now left.

matthewsmiles87 on Twitter: "Sums up the reason for Arsenal's lack of trophies, with their keeper and centre-back messing up. All the flair you'd want, but lack a core and you'll struggle."

1811: So, Arsenal's wait for a trophy goes on. As a way of consolation, they are still in with a chance of winning the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup this season but the quadruple? Sorry guys, that is history.

karlhysteria on Twitter: "Well done Birmingham. Wish we could've won, but from an Arsenal fan, you guys deserved that. Seriously."

Birmingham captain Stephen Carr on his side's victory over Arsenal: "We knew if we got right in their faces that we could get the result. There's a lot of belief in that dressing room. It's amazing, such a long time that the fans have been waiting for. This will make their year, maybe their lives."

Champagne moment
1806: Stephen Carr gets his hands on the silverware, decked in blue and white ribbons, and lifts it high above his head. They earned that win, didn't they?

1805: Here come the Birmingham players to collect the Carling Cup trophy, led by veteran captain Stephen Carr.

Birmingham boss Alex McLeish on his side's Carling Cup triumph: "It feels like the best ever at the moment. In relative terms for a small club like ours to beat Arsenal was a titanic effort from our players. I am so pleased for the fans, they have craved victory for a long time."

1803: Meanwhile, the Birmingham players and fans are still celebrating. Cameron Jerome has got big Ben Foster on his shoulders at the moment, so he is clearly a brave (not to mention strong) man.

1802: The Arsenal players walk up the stairs to the Royal Box to receive their losers' medals. They don't really look as they want to be there, understandably.

Chief football writer Phil McNulty at Wembley: "Scenes of incredible jubilation from Birmingham fans - and how their team hung in when the going got tough. Arsenal are crestfallen after that shocking mix-up between Laurent Koscielny and Wojciech Szczesny. An accident waiting to happen all season?"

adamheayberd on Twitter: "Don't think Birmingham's winner was the keeper's fault, Koscielny should have kicked it instead of deciding at the last minute to leave it."

Champagne moment
It is the Blues' first major trophy since 1963, so you can imagine what it means to them. Oh, and they have qualified for the Europa League too.

Full time
1756: FULL-TIME Arsenal 1-2 Birmingham

1755: Obafemi Martins has a chance to make sure of Birmingham's win, holding off Johan Djourou and trying to go round Wojciech Szczesny. He fails, but he has eaten up more precious time.

1754: The Blues fans are already celebrating. Injured Arsenal skipper Cesc Fabregas looks on in the stands, chewing gum furiously.

1753: We are into the 92nd minute at Wembley and Birmingham have only got to hold out for two more minutes to get their hands on the Carling Cup. Incredible stuff - what a way to win the cup, and what a way to lose it.

Birmingham goal: What a mess, but Birmingham won't care. There is no danger when Nikola Zigic flicks on Ben Foster's hoisted free-kick but Laurent Koscielny and Wojciech Szczesny get in a muddle and the Gunners keeper can only push it into the path of Obafemi Martins, who gratefully slots home and celebrates with a trademark somersault.

1750: GOALFLASH Arsenal 1-2 Birmingham (Martins)

1748: A heat map of Stephen Carr's movement today would be interesting - he has not stopped running up and down that right flank for the Blues and is unlucky not to get behind the Arsenal defence again.

1746: Nikola Zigic's control isn't getting any better is it? He fails to control a ball sprayed out to him on the right. Less than five minutes of the 90 to go now... I hope Ben Foster charged up his iPod this morning?

BBC Sport pundit Mark Lawrenson at Wembley: "Arsene Wenger has seen Roger Johnson struggling and has gone for two big guys up front. Marouane Chamakh and Nicklas Bendtner will put him under all sorts of pressure."

1745: The Blues are a bit unlucky here. Jean Beausejour tries to head Stephen Carr's cross into Lee Bowyer's path but he gets just too much on it and the ball flies behind for a goal-kick

1742: Finally, some respite for Birmingham - they have a corner. Seb Larsson curls it in but Marouane Chamakh clears for the Gunners. The Blues react by making another change: Obafemi Martins is coming on for Keith Fahey.

Chief football writer Phil McNulty at Wembley: "Birmingham have responded really well in the second half after losing their lead just before the interval. Arsenal carry greater quality in attack but Alex McLeish's defence is made of stern stuff, especially the outstanding Roger Johnson."

1741: Arsenal are going for this now but they just cannot beat Blues keeper Ben Foster. Samir Nasri lets fly from the edge of the box but Foster pushes the ball away. Another top save.

1740: Marouane Chamakh almost makes an instant impact too. He gets down the left and his ball across goal is met by Tomas Rosicky's attempted flick. Not sure it is going in but Ben Foster makes sure by sliding in to boot the ball clear.

1739: Time for another Arsenal change. Marouane Chamakh replaces Andrey Arshavin. We have got 12 minutes of the 90 to go and it is still 1-1.

1736: Cue a Gunners counter-attack. Samir Nasri has men in support but elects to go it alone and sees his shot smash Ben Foster straight in the chops. Not sure he knew too much about that but Foster recovers quickly to make a far more acrobatic save moments later. Nicklas Bendtner cuts in from the left and Foster does brilliantly to claw his shot to safety. Birmingham are hanging on.

1736: Birmingham are defending in numbers now but they can still break quickly through Seb Larsson. He has support from Stephen Carr too but Carr just cannot force his way past Gael Clichy.

1735: Roger Johnson seems to be OK by the way... well, he just out-paced Nicklas Bendtner to Andrey Arshavin's through-ball anyway. In fairness to Bendtner, he was not anticipating that pass at all.

1733: Samir Nasri sees his low shot well saved by Ben Foster. Another neat Arsenal build-up comes to nothing.

ScoreitlikeSami on Twitter: "Does this mean that Birmingham are better than Barcelona?"

Yep, them and Leyton Orient too...

1732: Samir Nasri bends in a free-kick from the right. Alex Song gets on the end of it but his glancing header flies a long way wide.

1731: Arsenal have an injury problem too. Robin van Persie is forced off, and Nicklas Bendtner is on instead. Here is a player who does not lack self-belief...

More on that minor dust-up between Fulham boss Mark Hughes and Man City manager Roberto Mancini (see 1655). Here's Hughes: "Maybe I'm a bit old-fashioned. I was beaten 4-1 by Roberto at our place but I offered my hand and acknowledged they were the better team. But I didn't think he offered his hand with any sincerity today. I apologise if I offended anyone."

1728: Tomas Rosicky bursts past Jean Beausejour and into the box but his pull-back is straight at Martin Jiranek. It is not quite happening for Arsenal in the final third at the moment.

1726: Arsenal's best player so far? Jack Wilshere. Birmingham's? Take your pick... Lee Bowyer, Keith Fahey and Seb Larsson going forward, or Roger Johnson at the back. Johnson looks in trouble, though. He has come back on and play has resumed but Johnson is still limping badly.

1725: Roger Johnson needs some treatment on a knee injury, which is a chance for us all to catch our breath. This is some game, and there are still 25 minutes of the 90 left. Extra-time and pens to come? At the moment, yes.

BBC Sport pundit Mark Lawrenson at Wembley: "Birmingham are really good at pinching the ball from the Arsenal players when it is played into them up front."

1722: End to end stuff at the moment... this cup final is still very much up for grabs. Birmingham's turn to attack sees Seb Larsson play in Lee Bowyer when the Blues have men over to his left. He has time to take a touch but tries a clever flick, and Arsenal clear.

1721: Arsenal respond with some neat passing football and they are just about to work a shooting chance when Lee Bowyer nips in. That's a corner, and the Gunners go close again when Jack Wilshere sees his effort blocked.

Someone has struck the woodwork
1718: So much for Arsenal looking settled. Jean Beausejour sets up Keith Fahey on the edge of the box and, after his first shot is blocked, he has another bite of the cherry and fires in a low shot that beats Wojciech Szczesny but bounces back off the inside of his right-hand post. Birmingham's best moment of the second half.

1718: Arsenal look a lot more settled since the restart but Birmingham are still battling away and are still level at 1-1 of course. The Blues have just had a pop at goal too, with the ball breaking for Lee Bowyer about 30 yards out when Nikola Zigic could not connect with a long ball... Bowyer's effort soars a mile over the bar.

1715: Seb Larsson whips the free-kick in but Laurent Koscielny is in the right place to head it over his own bar.

Yellow card
1714: Better news for Birmingham. They win a free-kick on the left and about 30 yards out when Gael Clichy blocks Keith Fahey. That's a booking for the Arsenal defender.

1713: More pressure by Arsenal but Birmingham clear their lines from a corner. The Blues are not posing the same attacking threat they were before the interval at the moment though. More news on Craig Gardner - he had picked up a knee injury.

Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini on his exchange with Mark Hughes (see 1655): "I don't know, don't know what he (Hughes) said. I shook hands with him, but I don't understand what he said, I don't know. There's no problem as far as I'm concerned."

1711: Birmingham are going to make a change. Craig Gardner has picked up a knock and he hobbles off. Chilean World Cup star Jean Beausejour is on instead.

1710: Another Arsenal attack, and they are inches away from taking the lead. Bacary Sagna gets on the end of a ball down the right and his cross is met first-time by Tomas Rosicky, who sees his shot flash just wide of the post. Close, but no cigar.

1709: Arsenal are quickly on the attack and Andrey Arshavin and Samir Nasri link up well. Birmingham get men back quickly, though, and they also clear Bacary Sagna's cross too. Jack Wilshere gets a bang on the head when he tries to get on the end of it, but he is OK to carry on.

1706: Arsenal get the second half started at Wembley.

More from BBC Sport pundit Alan Hansen at Wembley: "Arsenal are lacking leadership without Cesc Fabregas and are playing like a team of strangers. They are so lucky to be on level terms at half-time."

dandelacour on Twitter: "Great game at Wembley, end to end, both teams going out and playing the way that they play best in order to win"

ScarletVarlet on Twitter: "So happy the City-Fulham match is over. How could a Cup Final and a league match be going at the same time? Madness!

Me too!

BBC Sport pundit Alan Shearer at Wembley: "What Birmingham have to do is get that ball into Zigic. His job is to lay the ball off and get into box. The goal came from Zigic working hard and battling, which led to them winning the corner. I'm sure Alex McLeish will be telling them to do more of the same because Arsenal cannot handle him."

BBC Sport pundit Alan Hansen at Wembley on the first half of the Carling Cup final: "It's been tasty I thought Birmingham were absolutely fantastic whereas Arsenal have been so poor I can't believe it. It was a big decision in first minute with Bowyer's offside decision. There was a spell were Arsenal fell apart completely. Had Birmingham got a second goal, it might have been all over, but you have to say the equaliser was quality."

1655: A bit of handbags at the final whistle at Eastlands. Fulham boss Mark Hughes and his Man City counterpart Roberto Mancini clearly do not want to shake hands but approach each other without really looking and touch fingers (that's probably the most accurate way of describing it) until Hughes, Mancini's predecessor in the City hotseat, whips his hand away and marches off. Now, now children...

Full time
1652: FULL-TIME Man City 1-1 Fulham

Half time
HALF-TIME Arsenal 1-1 Birmingham
Chief football writer Phil McNulty's HT snapshot from Wembley:
"Enthralling first 45 minutes. How Birmingham will wish they could have held their lead until the interval but Arsenal may just feel the momentum is with them now."

1650: Samir Nasri lets fly with a swerving 25-yard shot for Arsenal, that Ben Foster does well to push away. We are well into the 50th minute of the first half at Wembley.

1649: Into stoppage time at Eastlands, where it looks like Champions League-chasing Man City are going to have to settle for a point against Fulham.

1648: Seb Larsson has been behind most of Birmingham's best moments and he is on the ball again. This time he aims a diagonal ball towards the head of Nikola Zigic, who meets it well enough but cannot direct his header.

1645: Lee Bowyer is down on the Wembley turf, again, having treatment for another injury and the first 45 minutes are up. There will be four minutes of stoppage time at the end of what has been a fascinating first half.

BBC Sport pundit Mark Lawrenson at Wembley: "With Robin van Persie's injury, he won't come off unless he's done his hamstring. You were telling me about Cesc Fabregas tweeting the other night, did he tweet his hamstring before this match?"

Chief football writer Phil McNulty at Wembley: "Could those few minutes have turned this Carling Cup Final? Nikola Zigic should have doubled Birmingham's lead just before Robin van Persie's splendid volleyed equaliser. Arsenal's supporters have finally burst into life as they watch their side finally exert their authority."

Yellow card
1643: More trouble for Birmingham. Seb Larsson is booked for disputing a free-kick and, when it is floated into the Birmingham box, Ben Foster cannot collect and has to chase it round the box. Fortunately for the Blues keeper, it is then fired straight at him.

Someone has struck the woodwork
Arsenal goal: Jack Wilshere thinks he has started and finished a sweeping Arsenal attack but sees his powerful shot come back off the bar with Ben Foster beaten. The ball is soon in the net, however, because Andrey Arshavin picks it up and makes space for a teasing cross from the right which Robin van Persie expertly hooks into the far corner. A super finish. Van Persie appears to have been injured while scoring but he is OK to continue.

1639: GOALFLASH Arsenal 1-1 Birmingham (Van Persie)

Yellow card
1638: Laurent Koscielny launches himself into a full-blooded challenge and catches Lee Bowyer, who needs a bit of treatment. That's a booking for the Arsenal defender.

1638: Over to Eastlands, where Fulham are the better team at the moment, and are seeing far more of the ball. Just over 10 minutes left for somebody to find a winner.

1636: Arsenal are rocking. This wasn't in the script, was it? Seb Larrsson swings in a couple of dangerous crosses and Johan Djourou has to make an important clearing header.

1634: It should be 2-0 to Birmingham. Craig Gardner is fouled on the edge of the area but play continues and the ball falls for Nikola Zigic. He has time to get his shot away but can get no power in his shot and Wojciech Szczesny is off his line quickly to smother it.

1633: Arsenal's neat and tidy football is not getting them in behind the Birmingham defence. Perhaps showing their frustration, Tomas Rosicky catches Stephen Carr after he nips in to intercept.

Chief football writer Phil McNulty at Wembley: "Deafening noise and a splash of blue at one end of Wembley. Birmingham's goal was exactly what Alex McLeish had in mind when he picked Nikola Zigic. He may sometimes take five touches when four will do, but that header is why he is in ahead of Martins and Jerome."

BBC Sport pundit Mark Lawrenson at Wembley: "Nikola Zigic was in between about three Arsenal players and he just helped the ball on with interest. Wojciech Szczesny was nowhere and look how many Arsenal players were just watching the ball. Zigic was also instrumental in winning the corner in the previous move."

1630: Almost an immediate reply by Arsenal. Bacary Sagna crosses from the right and Robin van Persie launches himself at the ball and sees his header fly inches over. A bit like Keith Houchen's goal for Coventry in the 1987 FA Cup final but not as spectacular. Also, crucially, not on target either.

Birmingham goal: That's why he was picked. Roger Johnson gets his head on the resulting corner and Nikola Zigic reaches it before Wojciech Szczesny to flick his header over the line from close range.

1629: GOALFLASH Arsenal 0-1 Birmingham (Zigic)

1626: Better by Birmingham. Nikola Zigic feeds Keith Fahey and his cross is heading towards the beanpole striker until it is headed behind.

1625: Arsenal are spreading the ball around well but the Birmingham defence is still holding out. This time Gael Clichy meets a raking Robin van Persie ball and floats over a cross from the left, but the Blues head clear.

1623: Another decent effort by Man City. Aleksandar Kolarov fires in a dipping 30-yard volley which is going in until Mark Schwarzer tips it over. Fulham are still level at 1-1 at Eastlands, though, with about 25 minutes left.

Chief football writer Phil McNulty at Wembley: "Early encouragement for both sides here at Wembley. Birmingham look tight and disciplined while Arsenal have already made inroads as Andrey Arshavin forced a fine save from Ben Foster. And Alex McLeish will certainly feel Birmingham were done a grave injustice by that incorrect offside decision given against Lee Bowyer."

1621: Twenty minutes gone at Wembley and Birmingham will be happy with the way things have gone so far - they are competing well in midfield and have kept Arsenal pretty quiet too. The Blues would be even happier if the officials had got that early offside decision right, of course.

1620: Fulham survive another scare when Mark Schwarzer dives full-length to push a Carlos Tevez shot round the post. City have brought on Patrick Vieira for Edin Dzeko.

1618: Lee Bowyer is the man trying to get forward to support Birmingham striker Nikola Zigic and he does his job very well here, ghosting into the area unmarked... before firing straight at Wojciech Szczesny. Birmingham's next attack sees Seb Larsson fire a deep cross towards Zigic from the right but Szczesny is off his line to collect.

1616: Samir Nasri dances down the right and into the area but then tries his luck from a tight angle and blasts his shot high and wide. A shame about the end product because that was a lovely piece of skill.

Hoonosewot on Twitter: "Terrible officiating, should have been a penalty and a red card. Arsenal very very lucky there."

BBC Sport pundit Mark Lawrenson on those Johan Djourou headers: "Nikola Zigic is 6ft 7in upright and 5ft 9in when he jumps."

1612: Mario Balotelli has an excellent chance to restore Man City's lead when Brede Hangeland's slip lets Pablo Zabaleta in on the right. His cross finds the Italian but he completely miskicks in front of goal and the ball flies behind.

1611: Johan Djourou gets on the end of a couple of Arsenal corners but the presence of Nikola Zigic is enough to put him off on both occasions.

1608: Arsenal come forward with purpose for the first time. Robin van Persie tries his luck from a tight, tight angle and sees his shot fly over. Then the ball is worked in to Andrey Arshavin in front of goal and Ben Foster has to block his shot.

1606: Safe to say that Wojciech Szczesny would have been sent off if Lee Bowyer hadn't been wrongly flagged offside at 1603. And it would clearly have been a penalty too. So, a massive let-off for the Gunners, and a big talking point for us...

Fulham goal: The Cottagers are level and in style. Brede Hangeland releases Andy Johnson down the right and his low cross is neatly despatched into the net by Damien Duff.

1605: GOALFLASH Man City 1-1 Fulham (Duff)

1603: We are back under way at Eastlands by the way...

1603: Two big early decisions for the officials. First Samir Nasri is blocked off as he tries to run through for Arsenal but, then comes a biggie at the other end. Nikola Zigic slips Lee Bowyer through and he is brought down by Wojciech Szczesny. That's a penalty, or else it would be if Bowyer hadn't been flagged offside. Replays show he was clearly ON.

1600: Birmingham get the 2011 Carling Cup final under way.

West Ham boss Avram Grant on Scott Parker's impressive display in his side's win over Liverpool: "Scott Parker was a big doubt. We didn't know if he could play. He came and said he wanted to play and I don't know many players would have done so with his type of [shoulder] injury."

1556: The teams are out at Wembley, where the pitch is covered in vast red, blue and white flags. We are just getting the handshakes out of the way, which means kick-off is not far away at all.

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish on his side's 3-1 defeat by West Ham: "Collectively we will move forward. We will not dismiss it. We will try to learn from it and move on. We will try to see what went wrong and repair it." And some injury news: "Martin Kelly has pulled his hamstring and Raul Meireles has taken a kick to the knee."

Chief football writer Phil McNulty at Wembley: "Tomas Rosicky replaces injured Arsenal skipper Cesc Fabregas, while Andrey Arshavin is in for Theo Walcott. Robin van Persie and Laurent Koscielny come back into the side as expected. Birmingham have gone for a lone forward with Nikola Zigic starting instead of Obafemi Martins and Cameron Jerome but the game has come too soon for former Arsenal midfielder Alex Hleb who is still out with a knee problem."

From anonymous Arsenal fan via text: "Confident of an Arsenal win today, but not sure how well Laurent Koscielny and Johan Djourou will cope with Nikola Zigic."

Half time
HALF-TIME Man City 1-0 Fulham
Jonathan Stevenson's HT snapshot:
"It's bubbled under, but never exploded into life. Mario Balotelli's moment of magic separates the sides."

1546: It's all a bit flat at Eastlands. To be honest, Man City have not got going at all, apart from that spectacular Mario Balotelli strike. Just one minute of stoppage time to be played at the end of the first half.

Birmingham boss Alex McLeish on whether his side can beat Arsenal for their first major trophy since 1963: "I don't believe we should be fazed by the occasion, and we are really looking forward to it. It's been a wee wait now and people said we might have been distracted by this final but the lads have focussed on Premier League games and the FA Cup and we are proud to be here. We will give it our best shot to win it, we are not here to admire Arsenal."

Birmingham midfielder Craig Gardner on his side's approach to the Carling Cup final: "I know Arsenal play it around and keep the ball, but I can guarantee they won't have as much determination as our lads. They are going to need to be on their game to beat us because we are going to be on fire."

1540: I'm definitely getting my handbag graphic out here. Clint Dempsey clearly likes a bit of afters because he tangles with Yaya Toure after being caught by a high kick and then tangles with Pablo Zabaleta too.

1538: Gareth Barry fells Fulham forward Clint Dempsey, who is not a happy chappy. That's a free-kick to the Cottagers... from which they work a neat move into the box. It falls for Andy Johnson but he tries another lay-off instead of shooting and Moussa Dembele's effort is crowded out.

More from Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger: "I don't get fed up with people talking about us not winning a trophy for six years. We have a very young team. We have been consistent, but the facts are true, we have not a delivered a trophy and now we must be more mature and deliver what people want from us."

KoudyTheGooner on Twitter: "Big game for Tomas Rosicky. His chance to prove that he still got what it takes to play for Arsenal."

1535: Our first booking at Eastlands. Fulham striker Andy Johnson dives in on Yaya Toure, and is a bit late and quite wild with it. Referee Peter Walton brandishes a yellow card in his direction.

BBC Sport pundit Alan Hansen: "I always thought Arsenal would have to buy big players but the way Arsene Wenger has done it and the way they are maturing, if they win Premier League this year they can dominate for years to come."

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger on what winning the Carling Cup will mean for his side: "It will mean we don't have to answer that question any more about whether we can win trophies. And it will be important for the confidence of the team for the rest of the season."

1531: Back at Eastlands and Fulham's heads have (briefly) gone down - they nearly went 2-0 behind there. A ball forward causes confusion in the Cottagers backline and it is allowed to run to Aleksandar Kolarov on the left of the penalty area, with the Serb selfishly shooting into the side-netting instead of squaring for a team-mate.

Arsenal v Birmingham line-ups
Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy, Rosicky, Song, Nasri, Wilshere, Arshavin, van Persie. Subs: Almunia, Denilson, Squillaci, Eboue, Gibbs, Chamakh, Bendtner.
Birmingham: Foster, Carr, Johnson, Jiranek, Ridgewell, Fahey, Gardner, Ferguson, Bowyer, Larsson, Zigic. Subs: Taylor, Murphy, Phillips, Jerome, Martins, Parnaby, Beausejour.
Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral)

1529: Just half-an-hour to go until the main event of the day starts - the Carling Cup final from Wembley. You can watch it live on BBC One and this website, in case you had forgotten. How are you feeling Birmingham and Arsenal fans - confident?

Man City: Out of nothing, City take the lead, and it is a special strike too. Carlos Tevez feeds Mario Balotelli, who runs across the edge of the Fulham area before smashing an absolute thunderbolt past Mark Schwarzer. A real net-buster, that one.

1525: GOALFLASH Man City 1-0 Fulham (Balotelli)

1525: Moussa Dembele tries to sweep the ball home from the edge of the area but Man City keeper Joe Hart gets down to make a comfortable save. This is still a promising spell for Fulham, though.

1523: A deep corner from the Man City right falls on the corner of the six-yard box to Mario Balotelli, but the ball has dropped a long way out of the sky and the Italian can only volley a difficult chance way over. Moments later, Danny Murphy spanks a 25-yard drive narrowly over for the visitors.

Full time
1523: FULL-TIME West Ham 3-1 Liverpool

1522: Straight from kick-off, Liverpool charge up field and Luis Suarez is brilliantly denied by Rob Green. That would have made things interesting again.

West Ham goal: What a way to seal the points (I think). West Ham break forward and Carlton Cole shrugs off Martin Skrtel and makes space for a shot with a nifty step-over before smashing home a powerful drive that beats Pepe Reina at his near post.

1520: GOALFLASH West Ham 3-1 Liverpool (Cole)

1520: The 90 minutes are up at Upton Park. West Ham go close through Mark Noble's shot, and Carlton Cole is warned for blocking Pepe Reina's attempt at a quick ball up field.

Tomas Rosicky replaces the injured Cesc Fabregas.

1518: Time for some fresh legs up front for West Ham. Carlton Cole replaces Demba Ba.

1517: At Eastlands, Man City are giving the ball away very easily at the moment. At Upton Park, Liverpool have a free-kick about 30 yards out, but Steven Gerrard floats it straight out of play.

1515: A bit of a waste this. With Liverpool piling on the pressure and plenty of options in front of him, David Ngog elects to shoot from 30 yards. His effort is a long way off target.

Liverpool goal: This one isn't over yet. After a sustained spell of Liverpool pressure, Luis Suarez's clever turn makes him space for a cross-shot in the box and Glen Johnson runs in to get on the end of it at the far post. Four minutes of the 90 left for the Hammers to hang on...

1513: GOALFLASH West Ham 2-1 Liverpool (Johnson)

1511: A sniff for Liverpool too. The ball drops for Joe Cole in the box and he attempts an acrobatic shot, but gets it all wrong. West Ham are making a defensive change - Jonathan Spector replaces Frederic Piquionne.

1510: A first half-chance for Man City against Fulham. Mario Balotelli (sporting a new dyed hair-do) gets his head to a corner but can only nod it wide.

1509: Arsenal have arrived at Wembley ahead of the Carling Cup final (KO 1600 GMT) but are not wearing suits. Tracksuits for the Gunners today...

1508: Glen Johnson is blocked off by Gary O'Neil and that's a free-kick to Liverpool. Luis Suarez is standing behind it, and curls it into the danger zone... but referee Mark Halsey sees some pushing and shoving in the box, and penalises the Reds players involved. chance gone.

1506: There have been plenty of shots from distance today at Upton Park, of varying quality, it has to be said. The latest comes from Frederic Piquionne, and he gets plenty of power behind his strike. It is too hot for Pepe Reina to handle, but he recovers to collect the ball as it spins (slowly) towards his goal.

1504: Man City have had most of the ball in the early stages against Fulham but have not done anything with it.

1503: West Ham remain dangerous on the counter-attack mind. Scott Parker (who else?) is behind their latest venture forward and Demba Ba almost gets on the end of his through-ball too... Pepe Reina was off his line quickly to collect. About 15 minutes to go at Upton Park and the Hammers still lead 2-0.

1501: We are under way at Eastlands. At Upton Park, Rob Green has just tipped a long-range drive from Steven Gerrard over the bar. Liverpool are not giving up just yet...

1500: Do you suspect this isn't going to be Liverpool's day? An attempted Hammers clearance smacks Wayne Bridge in the face and flies out. Referee Mark Halsey awards a throw-in to the Hammers.

1459: A couple more shots to tell you about. Scott Parker blocks a Steven Gerrard pile-driver and, at the other end, Thomas Hitzlsperger lets fly again (with his left foot this time) but sees the ball soar over Pepe Reina's bar.

1457: Mark Noble is either trying a clever corner (one of those where you tap it to a team-mate and pretend you haven't taken it), or he makes a real mess of things. Anyway, referee Mark Halsey gives him another go at it and, when the ball does come over, Frederic Piquionne should make it 3-0. He fails to make proper contact with his full header in front of goal, though, and Liverpool survive.

1455: The Liverpool defence stands off as Hammers full-back Lars Jacobsen advances towards the edge of the area, and lets fly with a rasping shot that flies just over.

1453: That's the start of a decent spell of Reds pressure but the Hammers break quickly, and Jamie Carragher has to get back to cover. Need I tell you that Scott Parker was at the heart of things for West Ham?

1451: Hammers goalkeeper Rob Green has hardly had a save to make in this game, but he has just pulled out a top-drawer stop. Luis Suarez, who has been virtually anonymous up front for Liverpool, turns away from James Tomkins and latches on to Steven Gerrard's pass. His angled shot is heading for the top corner until Green superbly tips it over.

1449: Thomas Hitzlsperger fancies himself on his right foot too, doesn't he? His second shot in quick succession flies high over Pepe Reina's bar, though.

From anonymous Liverpool fan via text: "I would love to see us come back from this score to win, just like a certain Man United did a few weeks back against Blackpool. Unfortunately I feel this is going to be another example though of showing how far we are behind them and will show little passion and desire to win, and that hurts me to say that."

1446: Steven Gerrard tries to bend in one of those raking crosses from the right wing but it is cut out by the first West Ham defender. The Reds seem a bit short of ideas going forward at the moment - they have just over half-an-hour left to change all that.

1445: Joe Cole gives the ball straight to Frederic Piquionne and West Ham are on the attack again. He feeds Thomas Hitzlsperger, who has a chance to shoot with his left foot but cuts inside to have a pop with his right. It's deflected behind for a corner, which Hitzlsperger lifts in for Piquionne to head goalwards. It is blocked, but this is still impressive stuff by West Ham.

1442: Almost a third goal by West Ham. Scott Parker is involved, as always, and Demba Ba collects the ball on the run before smashing a fierce low shot goalwards... it fizzes just past Pepe Reina's left-hand post, and I don't think the Liverpool keeper would have reached it.

MikeAaronhall on Twitter: "Time to see how effective the King's (half-time) Speech was for Liverpool!"

1440: West Ham want a free-kick when Demba Ba is caught by Joe Cole as he strides towards the area - looked like a foul to me. Referee Mark Halsey thinks otherwise.

1438: But that is the last contribution Raul Meireles will make to the game. That injury he sustained from a Scott Parker tackle in the first half has caught up with the Liverpool midfielder, and he has to be replaced by David Ngog.

1437: Much better by Liverpool - they look full of purpose right now. Raul Meireles swings in a cross towards Luis Suarez but James Tomkins stretches to head clear.

1436: Joe Cole takes the ball off Luis Suarez and clips an inviting cross over to the back post. No Liverpool players are in the area to get on the end of it though.

1435: West Ham get us back under way at Upton Park.

Chief football writer Phil McNulty at Wembley: "Birmingham City's last major piece of silverware came in this competition under its guise of the League Cup in 1963 - but Alex McLeish is hoping his team can put that right at rain-sodden Wembley. Arsenal have a trophy drought of their own to end, stretching back to only 2005 admittedly, but manager Arsene Wenger is now keen to claim a prize he has scorned in the past to mark the next step forward in the Gunners' development. McLeish knows Birmingham are massive underdogs, but their chances have been improved by the absence of Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas and Theo Walcott."

It's raining
1432: An hour-and-a-half to go until kick-off at Wembley and I am sorry to say the sunshine we saw this morning in London is a distant memory. The weather is now freezing cold and wet too. Nice.

From Graham in London, via text: "Suddenly, everyone in the lower half of the Premier League table doesn't look that safe anymore! Gonna be a cracking end to the season!"

Depending on who you support, of course...

zachgoodchild on Twitter: "I was just starting to believe that Liverpool were turning their season around until that 45 minutes of football."

1428: Ditto for Demba Ba's header too - he does so well to get his body in the right shape to direct Gary O'Neil's cross into the top corner. A few question marks over Liverpool's defending, though.

Jonathan Stevenson reports:
"City get back in Premier League action for the first time since Wayne Rooney's wonder goal ended their title hopes, but with Spurs and Chelsea breathing down their neck three points are a must in their hunt for Champions League football. They welcome ex-boss Mark Hughes to Eastlands for the first time since his messy sacking and the appointment of Roberto Mancini 14 months ago. Fulham, seventh in the form table, are unlikely to just roll over as a result.

1426: The more times I see Scott Parker's opener for West Ham, the better it gets. Worth watching MOTD2 (at 2200 GMT on BBC Two and this website) for, I'd say.

Man City v Fulham line-ups
Man City: Hart, Boateng, Toure, Lescott, Kolarov, Toure Yaya, Barry, Zabaleta, Tevez, Balotelli, Dzeko. Subs: Taylor, Milner, Wright-Phillips, Vieira, Jo, Wabara, Guidetti.
Fulham: Schwarzer, Baird, Hughes, Hangeland, Salcido, Duff, Etuhu, Murphy, Dempsey, Johnson, Dembele. Subs: Stockdale, Kelly, Gera, Gudjohnsen, Kakuta, Greening, Davies.
Referee: Peter Walton (Northamptonshire)

Jonathan Stevenson reports: "Manchester City's
three musketeers lead the line at Eastlands, with Carlos Tevez once again partnered by Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli. They make two changes, with Kolo Toure and Pablo Zabaleta in for the injured Vincent Kompany and the mysteriously absent David Silva. Fulham boss Mark Hughes welcomes back Damien Duff and Dickson Etuhu for his first trip back to the club that fired him, with Steve Sidwell and Zoltan Gera making way."

From Jay in Llanfairfechan, via text: "Is there any other player in the Premier League who is as important to their respective team as Scott Parker is to West Ham? What a player."

I'd suggest Charlie Adam at Blackpool, but don't disagree with you Jay.

Half time
HALF-TIME West Ham 2-0 Liverpool
Mandeep Sanghera's HT snapshot:
"There's drive and determination from West Ham and they fully deserve their two-goal advantage against a Liverpool side that they are not allowing to get into any sort of gear."

West Ham goal: Another fantastic finish, and right on the stroke of half-time too. Rob Green's clearance is collected by Gary O'Neil on the right and his cross is met by Demba Ba, who powers his header past the helpless Pepe Reina and into the top corner. Breathing space for the Hammers.

1416: GOALFLASH West Ham 2-0 Liverpool (Ba)

1415: Yep, Liverpool make the change, and Joe Cole is on. He will play on the left of midfield and the Reds will revert to 4-4-2 with Dirk Kuyt and Luis Suarez up front.

1414: Ouch. Martin Kelly surges forward down the right, before collapsing in a heap. That's his hamstring gone, and his afternoon is over. It looks like Joe Cole, another ex-Hammer of course, is coming on instead.

1412: Ha, Mark Noble hits it in the end... and his shot bounces harmlessly wide.

1411: Lucas fells Thomas Hitzlsperger about 25 yards out and this is a dangerous free-kick for West Ham, especially because you-know-who is going to take it...

1410: Liverpool striker Luis Suarez has not exactly played a big part in this game so far, mainly because Matthew Upson has been so solid at the back for West Ham. Still a lot of work for the Hammers to do yet, though.

1408: A busy little spell for referee Mark Halsey. First West Ham want a penalty when Demba Ba goes tumbling in the area - nothing doing. Then Liverpool have a big shout for a free-kick moments later, when Luis Suarez goes down under a challenge by James Tomkins right on the edge of the Hammers' box. Again, Halsey says no.

1405: Hmmm. Liverpool seem to have lost their way a bit going forward. Raul Meireles is caught in possession by Scott Parker, and the Hammers pour forward again. Meireles looks as though he picked up a knock in that tackle too, and he is limping at the moment.

1402: Half-an-hour gone at Upton Park and the tempo hasn't dropped yet. The Hammers seem to see attack as the best form of defence... and, looking at the number of goals they have conceded this season, they probably have a point.

JediLee7 on Twitter: "Good West Ham goal... no denying that, but there are goals for us today against this Hammers defence...come on Reds."

Adam_Clatworthy on Twitter: "Great finish by Scott Parker. I still have no idea why this guy isn't a regular England international."

1358: This game has burst into life now, that's for sure. Another chance for the Hammers sees Mark Noble nick the ball off Raul Meireles and feeds Frederic Piquionne, who bends in a tempting cross from the right that Demba Ba is just unable to turn in at the far post.

1355: End to end stuff at Upton Park, and Liverpool almost manage an instant reply. The Hammers force a corner which is cleared to Dirk Kuyt and he makes for goal, letting fly with a fierce strike that zips a fraction wide of Rob Green's right-hand post. Unlucky.

West Ham goal: The Hammers make the breakthrough and it is a lovely finish too. Scott Parker picks up the ball and drives towards the area, exchanging passes with Thomas Hitzlsperger and then dinking a precise first-time shot past the diving Pepe Reina and into the corner. Not much power there - but it was all about precision.

1353: GOALFLASH West Ham 1-0 Liverpool (Parker)

1352: Another Hammers attack, this time on the break and sweeping the length of the field. It breaks down when it reaches Demba Ba but still comes out to Thomas Hitzlsperger and you know what he is going to do... his shot from 30 yards is straight at Pepe Reina.

1350: Scott Parker tries to slip Frederic Piquionne clear but the Hammers striker cannot get the ball from beneath his feet... and gives up the chase as it runs out of play.

1346: A very open first 15 minutes at Upton Park and both sides very keen to get forward. Still no goals though...

1345: After a decent spell of pressure by the Hammers, Liverpool break forward and win a corner. Raul Meireles sends it over and former Hammer Glen Johnson leaps highest... only to see his header blocked.

1343: Glen Johnson steals the ball back in the left-hand corner and Raul Meireles makes space for a shot from outside the box. Not enough power behind it to trouble Hammers keeper Rob Green though.

1341: Liverpool have lined up in a 3-5-2 formation, against West Ham's 4-3-3. Lots of balls knocked into the danger zone so far by Liverpool but the Hammers are not adverse to the odd punt forward in the direction of Demba Ba either.

Yellow card
1337: An early booking for Liverpool. Martin Skrtel is committed to a challenge on Frederic Piquionne but gets man not ball as the Hammers striker breaks forward.

1336: Liverpool's first sniff. Raul Meireles ghosts into the area to get on the end of a deep cross, but his header drops wide.

1334: West Ham are passing it around nicely in the opening minutes and we have already seen our first Thomas Hitzlsperger 'hammer'. His left-peg is pretty handy and he has just let fly from long range, but his dipping volley was straight at Pepe Reina.

1332: Liverpool get us started.

1331: West Ham midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger looks at home in claret and blue, doesn't he? Wonder why? Anyway, the touchline bubble machines have been switched off... here we go.

Liverpool fan sparrowredhouse on Twitter: "It's games like this we were losing earlier this season, but win this and 4th is in reach. God save the King!"

1324: Just over five minutes to go until kick-off at Upton Park. We are currently awaiting the arrival of nine-year-old schoolboy Jonjo Heuerman, who has completed a three-day, 23-mile walk across London from Wembley Stadium to raise money for the Bobby Moore Fund for Cancer Research UK. Well done Jonjo.

Birmingham striker Cameron Jerome on the excitement generated by Birmingham's bid to win their first major trophy for 48 years: "It is massive for everyone associated with the club. The buzz around the city is something else, my phone keeps buzzing with people asking me for tickets. The fans are brilliant and very passionate about the club and the demand for tickets has been crazy - the players have been demanding quite a few as well!"

From Chris in Brighton, via text: "Re 1256. Birmingham should do what Ipswich did to Arsenal in the semi-final! Defend defend defend, and then exploit their high defensive line with direct counter attacking football! If a Championship side can beat Arsenal (in the first leg) then Birmingham certainly can!"

1316: Did you know 'The Big Eck' (Birimingham manager Alex McLeish) was a fan of The KLF? Nope, me neither. McLeish has collected several pots north of the border, but this would be his first trophy in English football. Can he do it? "Today is a massive challenge," McCleish told BBC Sport, "but we see it as an opportunity".

From The Squirrel, outside a freezing Wembley, via text: "Arrived four hours before kick off and the atmosphere keeps growing and growing, my little brother is expecting Blues to lose 9-0 but Blue Nose father is having none of it!"

From Malick, via text: "Heading to Wembley with my fellow Gunners. Never seen so many nervous Arsenal fans. The Carling Cup is not relevant, yeah right! Come on Arsenal!"

Injured Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas on Twitter: "Having treatment before joining the team to go to Wembley. Big day for Arsenal FC. We will have to give 110% to win this final. Come on!!!!!"

Mandeep Sanghera reports: "West Ham centre-back Matthew Upson shakes off an Achilles problem to play. Midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger makes his first league start for the club after returning in Monday's FA Cup win over Burnley following a lengthy thigh injury lay-off. Striker Carlton Cole is on the bench as Frederic Piquionne and Demba Ba get the nod to lead the attack. Liverpool have captain Steven Gerrard back from a groin injury and boss Kenny Dalglish hands 19-year-old defender Danny Wilson his first Premier League appearance. Striker Luis Suarez returns up front after being cup-tied for the Europa League in midweek. Former Hammers star Joe Cole is on the bench."

MShaw84 on Twitter: "On my way to Eastlands now. Couldn't RT a traffic report for everyone could you? The Mancunian Way is CLOSED today until 6pm."

For the benefit of Fulham fans who might not be familiar with the Manchester A-Z, the Mancunian Way is one of the main roads that takes fans to Eastlands.

1304: Bad news Birmingham fans... Lawro is predicting a Gunners win today. He says: "Because Wembley is such a big pitch, I think Arsenal's pass-and-move style will get them the win but I don't expect Birmingham to make it easy for them." You Hammers might be (a bit) happier with the way he sees your game going though...

From Matt in Reading, via text: "Big game for us Hammers today. Win and I think we will stay up, lose and it could be too big a task."

West Ham v Liverpool line-ups
West Ham: Green, Jacobsen, Tomkins, Upson, Bridge, O'Neil, Parker, Noble, Hitzlsperger, Ba, Piquionne. Subs: Boffin, Reid, Cole, Boa Morte, Spector, da Costa, Hines.
Liverpool: Reina, Kelly, Carragher, Skrtel, Wilson, Lucas, Meireles, Johnson, Gerrard, Kuyt, Suarez. Subs: Gulacsi, Cole, Kyrgiakos, Maxi, Ngog, Spearing, Poulsen.
Referee: Mark Halsey (Lancashire)

Thomas Hitzlsperger makes his Premier League debut for West Ham and Matthew Upson is fit to start in defence.

From Euan in Edinburgh, via text: "Danny Wilson looks very promising. Good to see him get a chance for Liverpool."

1256: Fair to say that Arsenal are heavy favourites to end their six-year wait for a trophy today, but what can Birmingham do to stop them? Former Gunners defender Martin Keown says the Blues should try to go on the offensive, rather than sitting back, explaining: "Personally I think you need to play a couple of strikers to really test Arsenal when you are in possession of the ball. The more you sit back, the more they are just going to attack you."

1255: How are you lot feeling then? Whether you are on your way to Wembley (with an umbrella hopefully) or sitting on your sofa, I want to hear from you. This is how: Tweet the commentary via the hashtag #BBCFootball, ask me a question direct @chrisbevan_bbc or text me via 81111 (UK).

1248: Er, maybe I spoke too soon about the weather. The sky in west London has gone very dark in the last few minutes... and no sign of the sun anymore. Still, we won't let a spot of rain dampen our day will we?

Mandeep Sanghera reports: "West Ham are back at the foot of the Premier League table and the match against Liverpool kickstarts a spell when they play five of the current top six in their next eight league outings. The Hammers will need all of the spirit of captain Scott Parker, whose words inspired a comeback from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 at West Brom last time out, in their relegation fight and against Liverpool. The Reds are unbeaten in eight and have won the last four fixtures between the two sides."

Steven Gerrard returns from injury and teenage Scottish defender Danny Wilson makes his Premier League debut. More on that, and Hammers news too, very soon.

1243: What else is happening, then? Today's Premier League action takes place at Upton Park (for West Ham v Liverpool) at 1330 GMT and Eastlands (for Man City v Fulham) at 1500 GMT. There is something very wrong about being halfway through a league game when a showpiece Wembley final kicks off but I reckon we can live with it, for today anyway.

Champagne moment
1238: Yep, welcome to the 2011 Carling Cup final (and, er, two Premier League games too). In about five-and-a-half hours time, either Arsenal or Birmingham will get their hands on some silverware at Wembley, something fans of both sides will feel is long overdue. Kick-off is at 1600 GMT and you can watch live on BBC One, BBC One HD and this website (in the UK). Excited? Of course. Only Muttley gets more excited than me at the thought of medals being given out...

It's sunny
1235: Afternoon folks. What a beautiful day.... it seems that even the weather knows that the first major football final of the year is something to smile about.

Print Sponsor

Carling Cup results

27 Feb 2011 23:59 UK

Barclays Premier League table snapshot

As it stood on 27 Feb 2011 23:59 UK

Position Team P GD PTS
1 Man Utd 27 36 60
2 Arsenal 27 30 56
3 Man City 28 19 50
4 Tottenham 27 7 47
5 Chelsea 26 24 45
6 Liverpool 28 1 39
7 Bolton 28 1 37
8 Sunderland 28 -2 37
9 Newcastle 28 4 36
10 Everton 27 -1 33
11 Stoke 27 -3 33
12 Aston Villa 28 -12 33
13 Fulham 28 0 32
14 Blackburn 28 -11 32
15 Blackpool 28 -13 32
16 Birmingham 26 -10 30
17 Wolves 28 -15 28
18 West Ham 28 -16 28
19 West Brom 27 -17 28
20 Wigan 28 -22 27

see also
Sunday's football photos
27 Feb 11 |  Football

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