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Carling Cup final: McLeish hails 'greatest achievement'

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McLeish salutes 'titanic effort'

Birmingham boss Alex McLeish said his side's Carling Cup final victory over Arsenal at Wembley was his "greatest achievement" as a manager.

Obafemi Martins scored in the last minute of normal time to complete a 2-1 victory over the Gunners.

"I am so pleased for the fans, they have craved victory for a long time," McLeish told BBC Sport.

"Relatively speaking, it is my greatest achievement. For a small club like ours to beat Arsenal was a titanic effort."

Birmingham had taken the lead through Nikola Zigic but Robin van Persie equalised for the Gunners at a packed Wembley.

No-one gave us a prayer, we were underdogs but sometimes the bookies don't get it right

Blues boss Alex McLeish

A Keith Fahey strike hit the Arsenal post, while Blues goalkeeper Ben Foster had to make several crucial saves to keep his side on level terms before the decisive moment in the 89th minute.

A mix-up between Gunners keeper Wojciech Szczesny and defender Laurent Koscielny as they failed to clear a Zigic flick-on allowed Martins, who is on loan from Russian side Rubin Kazan, a simple tap-in for the winner.

McLeish led Rangers to two championships and five cup wins in five years at Ibrox and managed Scotland to a famous victory over France in 2007.

He explained: "With Rangers I was expected to win trophies, even though it is difficult against Celtic. To come to England and for a club like Birmingham to beat the might of Arsenal is a dream come true.

"It is especially so for the fans who have had a long wait, those long-suffering Blues fans. No-one gave us a prayer, we were underdogs but sometimes the bookies don't get it right.

"After the goal I really did have the vision of the cup in my hands."

Martins, who had a three-year spell at Newcastle earlier in his career, also paid tribute to the hordes of Blues supporters who had travelled down from the Midlands to see their team win a first major trophy since 1963.

"It means a lot to the fans and the players because Birmingham really needed this trophy," commented Martins.

"I'm really glad to score the winning goal. I had to be careful of my touch so I tried my best not to make a mistake and we won."

Birmingham players revel in Carling Cup win

Birmingham had centre-back Roger Johnson hobbling with an injury for the latter part of the game but they withstood some close calls as Foster saved from Samir Nasri and Nicklas Bendtner before triumphing.

"We said all week it's 90 minutes of football and anything can happen. That's why we all love football so much," added Foster, who was Manchester United's hero when they beat Tottenham on penalties in the 2009 final.

"The main thing was that the lads kept fighting. You could see how tired we were but we just kept working and working. That's the spirit we've got."

On the goal, Foster added: "Thank God it fell to Oba. He doesn't miss from there. I think I could have scored that."

Right-back and Blues captain Stephen Carr stated that the mindset of the Midlands outfit helped them win the the trophy.

"That will make their [the supporters] year, make their life probably," said the ex-Tottenham full-back. "A lot of people have been waiting a long time for this.

"We knew if we got right in [Arsenal's] faces we could get the result. We kept going and we just got that little bit of luck at the end."



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see also
Arsenal 1-2 Birmingham
27 Feb 11 |  League Cup
McLeish salutes 'titanic effort'
27 Feb 11 |  Birmingham
Sunday football as it happened
27 Feb 11 |  Football
Sunday's football photos
27 Feb 11 |  Football


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