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Birmingham 3 City 1

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I had a conversation this week at work in which the topic of respect to referees was discussed. My argument was that the problem was not solely down to petulant and spoilt theatrics from Premier League players, but a large part of it is down to inept and incompetent refereeing decisions, which you can understand why players feel the need to challenge a referee.

And yesterday we had a case in point.

I know some Birmingham fans are claiming that both penalty decisions were incorrect, but I thought the penalty awarded in favour of us was a correct one given the manhandling of Benjani by Quedrue - in fact he could have gone down previously when bearing down on goal when he got a shot in that came back off the post. Looking at the letter of the law, the red card was also the correct one as he denied Benjani a goal scoring opportunity.

The decision to award Birmingham a penalty with the game at 2-1 with us attempting to mount a comeback was perhaps the worst penalty decision I have ever seen, and having watched numerous replays I cannot fathom how or why Rob Styles has saw fit to award a penalty.

The loose ball in the box was challenged by both Sun Jihai and Gary McSheffrey with an old school 'shoulder barge' between the two with McSheffrey getting the better off things. By going in harder than Sun Jihai, this knocked him off balance and he went to ground.



Clearly no foul on either part.



However, Styles saw fit to award Birmingham a penalty and if you look at the replay McSheffrey at first appears to think he has been penalised and looks as though he may get up to complain about the decision before he realises otherwise.



Far from sour grapes though as whilst the decision may have cost us a chance to get back into the game, it was an opportunity we perhaps didn't deserve given our poor play up to that point. Looking at the first half performance, following Benjani's effort our best attempts on goal were when both Richard Dunne (twice) and Sun Jihai threatened Joe Hart's goals with misplaced clearances and positionally the defence looked at sea - particularly centrally where we have not been solid for some time.



Sven - whilst not happy witht he penalty award, was also refusing to solely blame it for our shortcomings, saying:




It is not possible that we talk about Europe and we
don’t win a game like this because it was not that difficult. It was not even a
physically hard game that we had maybe expected.
"We should win a game like
this and you won’t do that if you concede two goals like we did before our
penalty......We can’t perform like this if we are Manchester City.
"I don’t
know how many passes we missed without being pressed. We didn’t hold the ball in
the first half and it’s impossible to concede two goals as we did.
"I am
frustrated because we are talking and dreaming about Europe and I think we are
losing our confidence. I am very, very disappointed because I think you have to
take at least a point in a game like this, but we didn’t."



Whilst the possibility of Europe is still being mentioned, it is now in rather more hushed tones as we are not stepping up when it counts and our potential place finish is dropping by the week and it is only the failings of other sides to snatch the initiatve (namely Villa's recent implosion) that is keeping us with a shout of qualification for next season.


It was a big win for Birmingham though, and with a fixture against Wigan next week they can put some daylight between themselves and the relegation positions, with Bolton letting slip a big, big opportunity at home to Arsenal.



Reports:



Handling pressure is something that quickly becomes second nature as an Old Firm manager. You get used to have everything thrown at you all of the time. In the hot heat of a Premier League relegation battle, it is now standing Alex McLeish in good stead. >>the guardian.



Alex McLeish started the season dreaming of the European Championship and the former Scotland manager would be loath to finish it by dropping into the Coca-Cola equivalent. However, if his Birmingham City team carry on playing like this he will stay in the spotlight.
Whether or not referee Rob Styles can avoid demotion after his performance is another question. Players and managers have been asked to show more respect to officials but it was not easy yesterday. >>the independent.



Everyone agrees that referees need to be shown more respect, but Rob Styles gave a performance yesterday that would have tested the patience of a saint. Two extremely dubious penalty decisions had the crowd yelling: "You don't know what you're doing". It was hard to disagree. >>the telegraph.



Blues secured a crucial three points with a 3-1 home victory over Manchester City at St Andrews.
Mauro Zarate struck twice before an Elano penalty got Man City back into it for a while until a Gary McSheffrey spot kick settled Blues' nerves and saw them home. >>singing the blues.



Only 23,000 bothered to turn up to what was Blues biggest game to date. Of course every game is that for Blues at this stage of the season, but the meanies who stayed in out of the rain missed a Blues performance of assurance and in the end bravery. >>planet blues.