Birmingham City 2-2 Manchester City
Match Reports, Updated:
Craig Gardner's late penalty gave Birmingham a share of the spoils from a feisty, if unspectacular, 2-2 draw against Manchester City.
Both sides entered this one in need of maximum points, but for reasons that could not be more different. Following victories for Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea last night it was vital that Manchester City record a victory to keep in touch at the summit while Birmingham needed a win to haul themselves away from the relegation zone.
The visitors flew out of the blocks and forged ahead in just the fourth minute as Carlos Tevez was given the simplest of tap-ins from six yards by Spanish World Cup winner David Silva.
The hosts were struggling to live with their high flying opponents who should have stretched their lead, only to find themselves pegged back in the 23rd minute as Nikola Zigic reacted fastest to bundle David Bentley's cross into the back of the net. The momentum of the game changed instantly as the Blues began to look the more dangerous, only to be stung themselves four minutes before the interval as Aleksandar Kolarov's excellent free-kick found the bottom corner of the net.
That should have been the goal to give the visitors the edge back but they struggled to keep the ball, and the introduction of Patrick Vieira only worsened things as the Frenchman looked well off the pace. Roberto Mancini was apopleptic just after the hour mark as Jerome Boateng's cross was clearly blocked by the hand of Stephen Carr in the penalty area but the referee refused to give the penalty.
He was pointing to the spot in the 77th minute though, but it was in Birmingham's favour as an off colour Vieira barged unceremoniously into fellow substitute Kevin Phillips. Craig Gardner stepped up to coolly slot the penalty kick into the back of the net and deliver a potentially shattering blow to City's title ambitions.
The point serves neither side all that well but Birmingham will definitely be the happier as it keeps them out of the relegation zone, but City now find themselves eight points behind United at the top, having played a game more too.