Sunday, 30 March 2014

Birmingham swept aside by Cherries’ dazzling display 2-4! (video)

Match Report
Birmingham City 2 v 4 AFCB
30 March 2014
Attendance: 13,875 (including 1182 AFCB fans)
AFCB in white jackets soon revealed their Darth Vader black away kits.
Having seen Leeds blown away in half an hour at Dean Court in mid-week Bournemouth fans wondered whether Eddie Howe’s team could put on a display anywhere near as convincing against Birmingham away. They needn’t have worried. AFCB not only sparkled in the first half, they played glistening football that would have been seen as graceful and elegant in any European league. The fact that it was in the Championship is something that opposition teams can’t seem to cope with and it is pushing the Cherries towards their highest ever finish in English football.
Even I could see who was in the team for once.
However, I do give some credit to Birmingham who dusted themselves down after a first half battering and with a couple of substitutions made it much more of a game. But it was simply too little, too late. Eddie Howe’s team had swept them aside in a first half that was a real treat to the eye.

Does anyone actually want to play football?
AFCB made only one change to their mid-week line up with Eunan O’Kane stepping in for Andrew Surman. Meanwhile, Birmingham stuck with their 11 that have given them an away win against Millwall in mid-week. 

More pictures can be seen on Match Day Gallery.

First Half

Birmingham kicked off towards the away supporters’ end with Elphick and Francis in the early action against Ibe. Yann Kermorgant soon played Pugh into the box but Caddis cleared. It was clear that Ibe on the left wing would be Birmingham’s main ball out to start off attacks so it looked like a busy day for Francis.

Birmingham won the first corner after two-and-a-half minutes but Francis headed clear. Arter then fouled Shinnie on the edge box. AFCB put three players in the wall and Reilly and Shinnie lined up next to it only to break away when the kick was taken, but Caddis fired wide of the left post! It was close enough for the Birmingham supporters to think it had gone in.

AFCB went straight on the attack. After a quick move with Pugh, Grabban and Kermorgant involved, Ritchie came back on his left foot to fire wide of the left post after five minutes, although it must have been deflected as AFCB won a corner. After Grabban’s back kick AFCB win another corner this time on the right, but Pugh was offside.

Grabban was next to be flagged offside, but AFCB were getting a grip of proceedings and while Grabban fought with Martin, a throw led to Francis and O’Kane playing the ball up to Ritchie who crossed high and over the goal.

Birmingham won a corner on 10 minutes which O’Kane disputed. The kick from the left caused a panic in the box as Kermorgant clipped it backwards towards goal and a combination of post and Lee Camp almost pushed the ball into the goal but a big boot, probably Francis’ cleared the danger. Things were not exactly going AFCB’s way as Kermorgant fouled Ibe, but the ball in was too strong for everyone.

The ball out from Elphick then started what has to go down as another sublime goal by the Cherries. Bournemouth fans were shouting olays while Birmingham fans were booing the seasiders possession which switched from O’Kane to Gabban, to Pugh and Harte on the left and back to Grabban before a left sided cross to Ritchie, who fired in a shot that rippled the back of the net as he speeded in from the right. It was like a practise ground move. No Birmingham played got near the ball and AFCB were 0-1 up having stroked the ball around effortlessly before passing it into the net on 12 minutes!

Birmingham must have been a little stunned but they fashioned a move of their own that saw a right wing cross make Elphick scramble a header that fell to Ibe in the box but he crewed his shot over from about 8 yards out. That was a good chance.

While Yann Kermorgant received an injury he was soon back up. Arter was getting caught in possession, but Zigic was luckily offside. But it was just about to get worse for Birmingham. Spector’s header fell for Elphick and the ball went via Kermorgant and Arter over to Pugh on the left wing and his cross on 19 minutes was met by Grabban, who basically walked it into the net with Randolph sprawled at his feet 0-2. It had been laid on a plate for Grabban and he was up to 18 goals for the season.

Birmingham were not able to deal with the pace and penetration of Bournemouth’s forward play. It was lightening quick stuff and it happened again on 26 minutes when O’Kane and then Francis battled with Martin before Kermorgant released Grabban and with only the keeper to beat it looked like Grabban would go round him until Randolph brought him down – penalty! Where was the red card? It didn’t matter up stepped Grabban to smash his 19th goal of the season home high and to the keeper’s left – 0-3.

By this time AFCB fans were in full party mood and their glee was almost extended further when Ritchie shot wide on 28 minutes. The Cherries were not quite perfect as Francis also hit a cross too long, but otherwise you could not grumble with the cutting-edge that the team now has.

Kermorgrant was coming in for most of the punishment as Martin dumped him on the floor, not for the first time. Birmingham’s best hope seemed to be in getting the ball to Zigic, but even when he had it on the right wing his cross went straight across goal with no one there to put it away.

Shinnie was subbed on 32 minutes and Frederico Macheda came on for Birmingham. Arter picked up a foul while running at full speed on 35 minutes as AFCB looked to further dominate the game. AFCb wona corner a minute later and Kermorgant headed over. The next meaningful attack saw Yann cross to Grabban who went for a spectacular volley on the edge of the box but he did not hit the target this time.

Birmingham were starting to put more pressure on AFCB by bringing Blackett more into the game on the left. They were not having much luck on the right side because Ian Harte was having another good game as AFCB’s left back. There were a couple of handball shouts on the half way line first against Kermorgant and then against one of the Birmingham players, but time was clicking towards half time. That’s when Caddis won Birmingham a corner and from it Robinson rose well and I waited for the ball to land in the net only to see Camp make a last second save at full stretch to tip the header over! So at half time it was 0-3. 

Half time and all we can do is applaud - fantastic performance by AFCB.
Wow - what a great half.
I think Lee Clark was pleased it was only three!
Second Half

I expected a bit of a drop off in the standards set in the first half and while AFCB would not want to ease off you guessed that it might happen a bit. AFCB won a free kick in the 46th minute, but things remained fairly quiet. Both Grabban and Arter put in crosses that did not worry Randolph in goal. Cook won a free kick as play neared 50 minutes, but then Birmingham’s resistance went again. Francis won a corner and while Zigic headed out, Ian Harte took hold of the ball on the left again and as he stepped inside he hit a shot that curled superbly into the left hand side of the goal to make it 0-4 on 52 minutes.

That was about the last of the action for the big Birmingham forward who was subbed on 55 minutes for Novak. Kermorgant fouled Ibe on 56 minutes and Robinson took the kick from around half way. Kermorgant got a head out, but moments later Ibe put a header across and  Macheda got the ball under control and hit a fierce shot passed Camp – 1-4! Birmingham were off the mark.

The goal inspired Birmingham to win a couple of more corners and start to push AFCB back. Elphick was now heavily involved in winning headers as AFCB played on the break.Arter almost played Pugh in as he raced with Martin on 63 minutes but Martin was just strong enough to hold Pugh off.

Burke was next to go close with a shot that went just wide. Birmingham were winning free kicks and doing all they could to get back into the game. A trip on Kermorgant by Blackett bought some rest bite on 67 minutes.

AFCB then made a sub with Fraser replacing Pugh on 68 minutes. Ritchie had made his way over to the touchline and looked a bit surprised that he was not the one coming off. Grabban immediately won a free kick against Martin for shirt pulling and Fraser then had a battle with Blackett before shooting just past the left post on 70 minutes.

Two minutes later and Birmingham were celebrating again as Elphick’s clearance fell nicely to Mached and he hit a firm shot past Camp to make it 2-4.

Birmingham were not done there either. A good cross first from Burke and then by Spector was headed just over AFCB’s goal.

Grabban then missed a great chance to kill the game off as he chose to round the keeper instead of shooting straight away and his shot was blocked for a corner.

Bournemouth made another sub, changing Kermorgant for Surman on 77 minutes. Fraser then had a shot well saved by Randolph and Birmingham took Martin off and threw the dice by bringing on Lovenkrands on 78 minutes. Camp had to make a smart save to his right low down a minute later as Birmingham sought an unlikely comeback.

Fraser was getting caught offside frequently while Arter was doing his best to get on the score sheet. Ritchie was meanwhile defending well and when Arter was tripped by Caddis on 84 minutes, Harte played the ball wide to Ritchie to fire a shot just wide. Caddis was actually given a yellow card – I though the ref had left his cards in the dressing room for most of the match, although Grabban and Randolph had also been shown yellow during the game.

Apart from a Grabban break that won a corner, having seen him hold off a couple of challenges in the box when he could have gone down there was not much more incident. Six minutes of extra time seemed a bit over the top, especially as many of the Blues fans had already left.

Still, we played on and Elliott Ward ran out as Arter was subbed. Final score 2-4.

Eddie Howe's Barmy Army!


If you were planning an early summer holiday in May you just might want to hold off a bit if you’re an AFCB fan. The football that they are playing at the moment is exhilarating stuff. The presence of Yann Kermorgant on the pitch with Grabban is already turning into a dream partnership . Moreover, the team build up play for the first goal in this was exquisite. Ritchie is back scoring and even Ian Harte opened his AFCB account.

There is a game afoot – AFCB are playing catch the leaders and the momentum is building. At the moment you just want this season to be extended if you are a Bournemouth fan and with a bit of luck it just might be.

Francis clenches his fists in victory.
Is this a team that is even better than we think?
Eddie says - that one's for you away fans.
Camp, Francis, Elphick, Cook, Harte, Arter (Ward 92), Ritchie, O,Kane, Pugh (Fraser 68), Kermorgant (Surman 77), Grabban

Allsop, Ward, Fraser, Smith, Pitman, Rantie, Surman

AFCB Ratings
Camp 8, Francis 8, Elphick 8, Cook 8, Harte 8, Arter 7, Ritchie 8, O,Kane 7, Pugh 7, Kermorgant 8, Grabban 9

Randolph, caddis, Blackett, Reilly, Martin, Robinson (Lovenkrands 78), Burke, Spector, Zigic (Novak 56), Shinnie (Macheda 32), Ibe

Birmingham Subs
Macheda, Lovekrands, Novak, Doyle, Lee, Ferguson, Rusnak.

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