On-loan Chelsea forward Mikael Forrsell’s debut double prevented Fulham from leaving St. Andrew’s with all three points after an enthralling encounter in the Midlands. The Finnish forward pegged Fulham back twice and both sides finished with ten men on an action-packed afternoon.
Fulham’s fine recent form looked set to continue when Louis Saha put the visitors ahead after just 35 seconds. The goal was made and finished in France with full back Jerome Bonnissel playing a peach of a ball in behind the Birmingham defence. Saha sped away from Matthew Upson and skipped beyond on-loan Fulham keeper Maik Taylor before steering an improvised finish into the empty net.
Taylor then gave Fulham a reminder of his abilities by parrying a powerful effort from Junichi Inamoto as Chris Coleman’s side threatened to double their lead just three minutes later. Upson then cleared a header from Malbranque as the Blues were struggling to stem the flow of Fulham attacks as well as retain possession.
Forssell looked like Birmingham’s most likely source of a route back into the contest and the energetic striker had gone close on two occasions before he finally drew Steve Bruce’s side level right at the end of the first half. Damien Johnson guided a header into the young forward and he chested it down majestically before spinning to shot between the legs of Edwin van der Sar.
The goal – and a feisty team-talk from Coleman – sparked Fulham back into life immediately after the interval. Malbranque was again denied by an excellent piece of Upson defending before Boa Morte drove the rebound wastefully wide. Sylvain Legwinski flicked a Malbranque free-kick onto the crossbar – but Fulham’s dominance of proceedings was brought to an abrupt end when Legwinski was harshly dismissed for a second yellow card after tangling with David Dunn.
The red card didn’t prevent the away side from retaking the lead, however, as Boa Morte’s brilliant overhead kick give them a sniff of an unlikely win. Birmingham were furious that the Portuguese forward’s robust challenge on Taylor that caused the goalkeeper to spill the ball went unpunished – although they soon equalised when Forssell pounced from close range after van der Sar parried an Upson header. The Blues might have had hopes of pushing for a winner themselves although that cause was undermined by Darren Purse, who punched Boa Morte in the aftermath of their equaliser.
BIRMINGHAM CITY (4-4-2): Taylor; Kenna (Tebily 45), Upson, Purse, Clapham; Johnson, Savage, Clemence (Lazaridis 64), Dunn; Forssell, John (Morrison 70). Subs (not used): Bennett, Cisse.
SENT OFF: Purse.
GOALS: Forrsell (45, 82).
FULHAM (4-3-3): van der Sar; Volz, Bonnissel, Goma, Knight; Legwinski, Clark, Inamoto (Djetou 90); Malbranque (Pembridge 64), Boa Morte, Saha (Sava 79). Subs (not used): Crossley, Melville.
BOOKED: Goma, Legwinski, Inamoto, Boa Morte.
SENT OFF: Legwinski.
GOALS: Saha (1), Boa Morte (78).
REFEREE: Steve Dunn (Gloucestershire).