Sunday, 27 February 2011

Rooting for the Blues

It's good to be able to watch the Carling Cup Final on terrestrial television - and not, thank goodness, via the ever-lamentable ITV. Though I'm a huge admirer of the style and philosophy of Arsenal (notwithstanding their squillionaire status), my commitments in this game are towards the unfashionable Birmingham City. That's because I used to live there, briefly; because my good friend and "Soho media asshat" Jim Smith is a supporter, and because of the Scottish connection.

It's been a rattling game so far (16.22) - but the Blues were robbed very early on when Lee Bowyer was wrongly adjudged offside by the referee's assistant, and thereby denied a penalty and a red card for the Gunners' keeper.

16.28: Birmingham lead. Just as I was about to write that Nikola Zigic was looking menacing, he scores. The important thing now is that they don't try to sit too deep to defend the lead. Arsenal's strength (well, one of them) is their inventiveness and creativity up front. Brum's Ben Foster has already pulled off a great stop from Andre Arshavin.

16.34: Zigic is just a wee bit late in front of goal and fails to put Birmingham further ahead. There was another Arsenal foul in the build-up.  The Blues are really putting the Gunners on the rack, but need to watch out for the break-back. Inverness Caley boss Terry Butcher reckoned Zigic could win the Cup for Birmingham - but just as I type that (16.39), Jack Wilshere hits the crossbar and Robin van Persie scores a great equaliser.

Gunners' fans only sing when they're drawing. "They are here, look!" observes Mark Lawrenson from the commentary gantry.

17.20: Keith Fahey agonisingly close to giving Birmingham the lead again, as his blistering rebound shot clips off the foot of Arsenal's left post. Fabulous match. The best Cup Final I've seen in ages.

17.37: Another fantastic save from Ben Foster. It's still anyone's game, but Arsenal are looking the more dangerous at the moment. And again from Foster, with the feet, from Rosicky, then Nasri.  The pressure from the Gunners is relentless.

An 88,855 attendance is announced at Wembley. Still a few spare, then. You coulda been there, Jim!

17.44:  On-loan Obafemi Martins from Russia is on the pitch as a sub for Birmingham. He and Zigic really can unlock defences. Fingers crossed. But first the Blues have to resist the Arsenal waves of attack in the last six minutes. Riveting.

17.52: Martins scores! Quite extraordinary. Four minutes extra-time to be played. Agonising. 

17.56: Birmingham have won the Carling Cup. Wonderful. 

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