Arsenal 1-1 Blues

Last updated : 13 January 2008 By Footymad Previewer
Arsenal's title challenge faltered as they produced an inept performance in a 1-1 draw with a battling Birmingham City.

Arsene Wenger was clearly frustrated by his side's flat performance, whereas his opposite number Alex McLeish was proud of his team's resolute and determined play.

The Gunners came close just two minutes into the game when a cross from the left by Gael Clichy found the head of Eduardo, but the Croatia striker directed the ball just wide.

Maik Taylor was called into action just seconds later when William Gallas rose right to meet a free-kick virtually unchallenged, but his effort flew straight into the arms of the Birmingham keeper.

Cameron Jerome gave the Gunners a scare on 15 minutes when he used his pace to good effect to out-run both Gallas and Philippe Senderos to latch onto a well-weighted through ball from midfield.

However, his low shot across goal was diverted for a corner by an alert Manuel Almunia.

The Gunners came close again within a minute when a Alex Hleb cross from the left found Eduardo who headed powerfully and on target but straight at Taylor who held the ball at the second grasp.

A combination of the quick feet of Hleb and Eduardo earned Arsenal a penalty as Stephen Kelly brought down the Croatian with a tackle from behind in the 19th minute.

Emmanuel Adebayor duly dispatched the spot-kick into the bottom right corner of the net.

Birmingham, who set up to defend and hit the Gunners on the counter-attack and set-pieces, kept the Gunners' chances to a minimum in the first half.

Arsenal had by far the lion's share of possession but were all too often guilty of over-playing. One pass too many too often ensured that the home side did not capitalise on their dominance.

At the interval, Wenger will have emphasised the need for a change while his counterpart will have called for more of the same.

Within two minutes of the re-start, Garry O'Connor got the visitors back into the game with a close range header from a Seb Larsson corner.

Taylor got down well to his right to save a Senderos header on 51 minutes as the Gunners stepped the pressure up again, but Birmingham continued to defend with vigour.

Eduardo, operating on the left flank after the introduction of Nicklas Bendtner, got into an excellent shooting opportunity in the 67th minute but inexplicably elected to square toward the waiting Danish attacker and the ball was intercepted before it got to its intended recipient.

Arsenal were fumbling around to the obvious growing frustration of their manager, who had few attacking options left on the bench.

Gallas failed to connect with a cross from Hleb in front of goal, before the subdued Cesc Fabregas fired a shot just wide in injury time.

Arsenal's dominance was in vain and Birmingham left the Emirates the happiest with a deserved share of the spoils.