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Last Updated: Saturday, 29 December 2007, 16:55 GMT
Birmingham 1-1 Fulham
By Paresh Soni

Sebastian Larrson (right) earned Birmingham a point
Larrson (right) struck to earn Birmingham a deserved point
Sebastian Larsson's deflected strike denied Fulham victory a day before new boss Roy Hodgson officially takes over.

The visitors looked sharp in the first half and Carlos Bocanegra headed in Simon Davies' corner to put them ahead.

Birmingham improved considerably after the break and were level when Larsson's shot went past a stranded Antti Niemi.

Niemi brilliantly kept out an 18-yard rocket from Franck Queudrue and though Hameur Bouazza saw red for a second bookable offence, Fulham hung on.

If he did not know it already, the second half will have shown Hodgson how much work he has to do with his charges to keep them up in the top flight.

In the opening period they showed their attacking qualities as they set about trying to win away in the league for the first time in 16 months.

606: DEBATE
United_Scotland

They committed men forward in numbers and passed the ball crisply, with Bouazza's pace down the left and Davies' delivery from corners causing all sorts of problems in the blustery conditions.

But, after David Healy fired wide in the opening seconds, Birmingham should have gone 1-0 up.

Mikael Forssell's pass allowed Gary McSheffrey to skip past a static defence, only to balloon his effort over the bar with his weaker right foot.

Bocanegra made him pay for that and took advantage of slack marking to nod in Davies' set-piece from a yard out shortly afterwards, and Healy then forced Maik Taylor into a good save.

Birmingham finally began to put the Cottagers under pressure towards half-time, with McSheffrey curling a free-kick narrowly over and Forssell forcing Niemi into a low save.

Fulham's new management team of Les Reed and Roy Hodgson
Fulham's management duo saw the good and bad sides of their team

They continued to look brighter after the resumption, particularly with the introduction of Mehdi Nafti, and the defensive vulnerabilities that have troubled Fulham this season resurfaced.

Fabrice Muamba's superb through ball put Larsson clear and after he cut inside his shot took a touch off Elliot Omozusi and went past a wrong-footed Niemi to bring Birmingham back on even terms.

Nafti unleashed a blistering drive which just curled beyond Niemi and the bar moments later and the Finnish keeper produced a fantastic save to tip Queudrue's fierce drive over.

Fulham were on the rack but Bouazza showed they still had a cutting edge when he crashed a shot inches too high at the other end with Taylor beaten.

The Londoners had 11 minutes to hold on when Bouazza's late challenge caught Queudrue and resulted in a second yellow card being shown to him by Mark Clatttenburg.

Birmingham huffed and puffed in the closing stages but failed to create genuine danger, leaving incoming Fulham boss Hodgson a base from which to build in the coming weeks.


  • Birmingham manager Alex Mcleish:
    "There was a wee bit of apprehension, they were unsettled by the conditions - the wind was swirling and it suited Fulham in the first half and us in the second half.

    "The worst enemy for any footballer, they will tell you, is the wind and Fulham stroked it about and had chances, although we had the best chance of all in the first half with McSheffrey.

    "We got a great reaction in the second half and after the equaliser we could have gone on and won but Niemi made a fantastic save."

  • Fulham caretaker-boss Ray Lewington:
    "We played fantastically well in the first half but we couldn't get the second goal.

    "They were always going to come back into it at some stage and when they did they scored, which made for a difficult second half.

    "When we get the ball we can actually play and we proved that. We had a gutsy performance, we passed the ball really well and created some opportunities."


    Birmingham: Maik Taylor, Kelly, Jaidi, Ridgewell, Queudrue, McSheffrey, Muamba, Johnson (Nafti 45), Larsson (De Ridder 73), Forssell (O'Connor 77), Jerome.
    Subs Not Used: Doyle, Sadler.

    Goals: Larsson 55.

    Fulham: Niemi, Omozusi, Stefanovic, Bocanegra, Konchesky, Davies, Murphy (Smertin 70), Davis, Bouazza, Dempsey, Healy (Kuqi 74).
    Subs Not Used: Warner, Kamara Leijer.

    Booked: Bouazza, Konchesky, Davies.

    Sent off: Bouazza 79.

    Goals: Bocanegra 8.

    Att: 28,923

    Ref: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear)

    BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match:
    Fulham's Clint Dempsey 7.25 (on 90 minutes).

  • Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.



  • SEE ALSO
    Saturday's football photos
    29 Dec 07 |  Football
    How to watch Match of the Day
    08 Oct 07 |  Match of the Day


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