An outstanding display of goalkeeping by Maik Taylor earned Birmingham City a point against his former club Fulham as the Blues held on for a goalless draw at Loftus Road this afternoon.
Taylor, who only concluded a permanent switch from Craven Cottage to Steve Bruce’s side last month after a successful loan spell, offered Fulham a reminder of the qualities that sustained their meteoric rise through the leagues before Mohamed Al-Fayed parted with millions to bring in Edwin van der Sar. The Northern Ireland international made a string of fine saves to ensure that the home side’s dominance was not reflected on the scoreboard, but the point proved a setback for Bruce’s hopes of leading Birmingham to an improbable Champions’ League place.
The visitors fashioned the first chance of the contest when Robbie Savage skipped around Moritz Volz and whacked a long-range effort against the crossbar after just four minutes. That was Blues’ only serious opening in the first half and they spent most of the rest of the contest on the backfoot. Barry Hayles was brilliantly denied by Taylor when he headed for the far corner from Sean Davis’ free-kick eight yards out. He made a magnificent double save to block Steed Malbranque’s drive and Luis Boa Morte’s effort from the rebound in the blink of an eye before Matthew Upson smashed the loss ball to safety.
The second half started at breakneck speed with Savage taking out Malbranque with a reckless tackle and grappling with the French midfielder. The fracas lead to both players being yellow card. City struggled to create any real openings, with Mikael Forrsell seeing a shot blocked by Alain Goma, whilst the flurry of Fulham efforts on goal had slowed to leave Taylor merely a spectator by the end of the contest. Even the introduction of Brian McBride and Ian Pearce from the bench failed to provide Coleman’s charges with enough firepower.
It was Bryan Hughes who came closest to grabbing a late winner but his optimistic effort from 20 yards flew wide – and both sides had to make do with a point.
FULHAM (4-3-3): van der Sar; Volz, Bocanegra, Knight, Goma; Djetou (McBride 66), Davis, Legwinski; Malbranque, Boa Morte, Hayles (Pearce 75). Subs (not used): Crossley, Inamoto, Petta.
BOOKED: Djetou, Malbranque, Sean Davis, Boa Morte.
BIRMINGHAM CITY (4-4-2): Maik Taylor; Martin Taylor, Cunningham, Upson, Grainger (Clemence 39); Johnson, Hughes (Clapham 90), Savage, Lazaridis; Morrison (John 69), Forssell. Subs (not used): Bennett, Tebily.
BOOKED: Savage, Upson.
REFEREE: Mike Riley (West Yorkshire).