Troy Deeney’s late leveller saw a hard fought, exciting championship game end 2-2 in the West Midlands.
Treacherous early conditions didn’t damage the quality of play in what was an exciting game at St Andrews. For those who braved the storm that preceded kick-off, it was a game to remember as both sides fought hard on a wet pitch in this clash of two teams fighting to be considered part of the race for the top 6. Birmingham came into this one with just one defeat in their previous 6 and would have fancied their chances at home against a Swansea side that was winless in 3.
The early exchanges belonged to Birmingham, with them winning the ball high and forcing the Swans defence into blocks from Chong and Bacuna inside the first 5 minutes. Mejbri’s industry on the right-hand side of their midfield three created both openings as Birmingham looked to press high.
It wasn’t long until this early pressure paid off. Scott Hogan was set free down the right, and Birmingham recycled his cross. Longelo curled in a wonderful ball from the left and Hogan, making his way back into the centre, was free to flick into the back of the net and open the scoring as Benda came flying out into no man’s land. Just reward for their industrious start.
It was nearly two soon after, as Chong was denied by a deflection and then moments later the former Red Devil’s cross was volleyed just over his own crossbar by Cabango.
Swansea were dominated in the first 20, finding little in the way of encouragement. They finally started to improve nearing 25 minutes but couldn’t find a way through the Blues’ defences. That was until the 30th minute, when a ball over the top picked out Ryan Manning’s run from wing-back. He fired through John Ruddy’s legs and onto the base of the post, but the rebound fell to Olivier Ntcham on the edge of the box, who curled a beauty into the far corner past the diving Blues ‘keeper. Manning proved a real issue for Birmingham on the left when Swansea could set him free in between Colin and Graham.
The latter stages of the first half were end to end, with both sides trying and failing to create clear openings. That was until the final attack of the opening 45, with Joel Latibeaudiere firing in a cut back from the right, which Swansea captain Matt Grimes took full advantage of. His finished looped into the top corner over John Ruddy and the Swans completed their turnaround to lead 2-1 at half time.
This left Birmingham on the back foot for the second 45, needing a strong start to give themselves a chance of turning this game on its head again. Bacuna fired wide within seconds and two of the Swansea back 3 found themselves in the referee’s book within 5 minutes of the restart for cynical challenges. Bacuna joined them soon after with a very late tackle as the game became more heated.
The 75th minute came suddenly with very little development from either side bar a few Birmingham corners, a stark contrast to the barnstorming first half. Birmingham introduced George Hall and Lukas Jutkiewicz for wingback Jordan Graham and Tahith Chong in an attacking formation change as Eustace tried to chase an equaliser. Swansea seemed largely unthreatened though for large swathes of the second half and Birmingham were laboured in their chase for parity.
It remained that way until the 90th minute, when the added height in the Birmingham side finally paid dividends. A Bacuna corner was floated onto the head of Dion Sanderson, who headed down to the feet of the Birmingham captain to settle himself and smash home. A deserved point for the home side on the balance of play, with neither team clearly warranting all 3 points.
Birmingham are back at home on Friday against Sunderland, and they’ll be hoping to get back to winning ways before the world cup break, whereas Swansea head to Huddersfield on Saturday.
Birmingham City: Ruddy (GK) 6, Colin 5, Trusty 6, Mejbri 6, Bacuna 7 , Deeney(C) 7, Hogan 6, Graham 5, Chong 6, Longelo 6, Sanderson 6. Substitutes: Hall 5, Jutkiewicz 6, James N/A.
Swansea City: Benda(GK) 5, Manning 8, Fulton 6, Cabango 6, Darling 6, Grimes(C) 7, Ntcham 7, Piroe 6, Cundle 6, Latibeaudiere 7, Wood 6. Substitutes: Cooper 5, Sorinola 5, Obafemi N/A.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH: Ryan Manning.