Birmingham 2-1 Bristol City: Robins unlucky

Pack in possession –

Birmingham City picked up their first three points of the season thanks to a slightly fortuitous 2-1 win over Bristol City. Here’s our five talking points from the game.

Robins’ smooth football

Bristol City’s passing and movement in the first half was outstanding. Marlon Pack ran the show with his unmatched feel for when to play the ball short and when to play it in behind. His midfield partner, Korey Smith, provided simplicity and balance while centre-backs Bailey Wright and Jens Hegeler held their positions well. The wide men, Josh Brownhill and Jamie Paterson, cut inside to sustain pressure in central areas and ensure the Robins always picked up second balls. Attacking midfielder Bobby Reid found a lot of good positions in behind Birmingham’s midfield and opened the scoring from close-range inside the first minute.

Birmingham’s midfield gaps

Some questioned Birmingham’s desire in that first half, but perhaps their problems were more to do with a lack of tactical awareness. Midfielders Cheikh N’Doye and Craig Gardner pressed individually and sporadically, making it easier for their opponents to play into the final third. As a result of a failure to press further up the pitch, players were reluctant to close down in the defensive third out of fear. The Robins therefore had plenty of unchallenged chances to shoot and striker Famara Diedhou, their record signing, was often thwarted by last ditch blocks from the imperious Michael Morrison.

Subs the key

Much of the above changed in the second half, after Harry Redknapp brought on Paul Robinson and Maikel Kieftenbeld at the interval. Birmingham looked stronger for having three central midfielders who all had the licence to press beyond the halfway line, knowing there was cover behind them. Kieftenbeld’s tenacity meant Pack had far less time on the ball than he had in the first half and thus, Bristol City lost their earlier rhythm.

Late drama

Jacques Maghoma, one of the few to show flashes of pace in the first half, produced a match-winning moment on 74 minutes. He cut inside from the left, beat two defenders before drilling the ball into the bottom right-hand corner. Seven minutes later, Kieftenbeld was sent off for his late challenge, meaning a backs-to-the-wall finale. Gardner blocked Diedhou’s effort while Reid smacked the outside of the post with a minute of normal time to go, but the Blues hung on.

In summary

Bristol City deserved at least a point for their first half dominance. They still came close on occasions in the second half, even if they found life harder. Redknapp should be credited for his inspired half-time team talk and substitutions that saw the Blues become more organized, but he will see plenty of room for improvement.