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 Sunday, 15 December, 2002, 16:04 GMT
Kirovski floors Fulham
Birmingham striker Jovan Kirovski (left) celebrates putting his side 1-0 ahead
Kirovski celebrates giving Birmingham the lead
Fulham 0-1 Birmingham

Birmingham's American striker Jovan Kirovski scored his first goal for the club to give Steve Bruce's men all three points at Fulham.

The Blues took full advantage of the Cottagers' lacklustre display to climb above their opponents in the Premiership table.

I've got an honest group of players trying their hardest - we might not be the prettiest but we give it a go

Birmingham boss
Steve Bruce

Kirovski scored after just seven minutes with a precision finish from 18 yards after a neat exchange of passes with strike partner Clinton Morrison.

Despite the sending-off of Blues skipper Darren Purse 20 minutes from the end for two yellow cards, Fulham could not find a way through.

They should have snatched a point in the second minute of injury time when Sylvain Legwinski had a clear sight of goal, but he blasted over from six yards.

Key incidents
7 mins: Kirovski puts Birmingham ahead
70 mins: Purse sent off for two bookings

Kirovski opened the scoring with the first real chance of the game seven minutes in and it was a terrific strike, though the Fulham defending left much to be desired.

The American played a one-two with Morrison and then from the edge of the penalty area curled the ball beautifully into the far corner of Edwin van der Sar's net.

Legwinski had Fulham's first opening after 18 minutes, controlling a long ball with great skill, but he could only fire his shot over the bar.

A couple of minutes later Legwinski should have done better again, when it looked as though he pulled out of a challenge with Nico Vaesen chasing onto a through ball from Luis Boa Morte.

Fulham's Sean Davis cannot stop Birmingham striker Jovan Kirovski from scoring
Kirovski slots home Birmingham's winner

It was no surprise that Fulham struggled in front of goal.

They did have all four frontline forwards - Steve Marlet, Luis Saha, Facundo Sava and Barry Hayles - missing through injury.

Although they saw plenty of the ball, they found it difficult to break the Birmingham defence down, shielded superbly by Aliou Cisse and Robbie Savage.

Legwinski had the last chance of the first half, seeing a header cleared off the line by Purse just a minute before the break.

Fulham picked the pace up at the start of the second half, with Junichi Inamoto - on for Pierre Wome at half-time - urging his side forward.

However, the home side were dealt a severe blow after 52 minutes, when Inamoto had to be taken off due to an Achilles injury.

We had some good chances but it's very frustrating for everybody as the minimum we deserved was a draw

Fulham assistant boss
Christian Damiano

Morrison could have wrapped up the points after 65 minutes when he cut in from the right, but Van der Sar pulled off a smart save with his feet to deny the striker.

Jean Tigana's men were given a boost with 20 minutes left, as Blues defender Purse was sent off for his second bookable offence.

Fulham's best chance of the game came two minutes into injury time when Legwinski missed a clear opening, firing over when he should have scored.

Try as they might, though, Fulham could not grab the goal that would have given them a point.


Fulham: Van der Sar, Finnan, Melville, Goma, Brevett, Djetou, Legwinski, Davis, Wome, Malbranque, Boa Morte. Subs: Inamoto, Clark, Taylor, Goldbaek, Willock.

Birmingham: Vaesen, Tebily, Purse, Cunningham, Kenna, Damien Johnson, Kirovski, Savage, Cisse, Morrison, Horsfield. Subs: Bennett, Hughes, Powell, Woodhouse, Fagan.

Referee: A D'Urso (Essex)

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
 BBC Five Live's Mike Sewell
"Fulham had enough chances to win"
 Birmingham manager Steve Bruce
"Twelve months ago we were a million miles from Fulham"
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