Mark Pembridge’s piledriver secured Fulham’s safe passage into the fourth round of the League Cup at St. Andrew’s but they had to withstand a serious Birmingham City barrage.
The home side dominated a tight encounter that were thwarted by their own poor finishing and an excellent goalkeeping display from Mark Crossley. The former Wales international kept out Dwight Yorke, Julian Gray and Jesper Gronkjaer after stepping in to replace the rested Edwin van der Sar. He got down low to deny Stephen Clemence and neither Emile Heskey or Yorke could get to the rebound.
Yorke had an instinctive volley superbly saved from Crossley, who then spread himself well to field an effort from Darren Anderton. The 35 year-old keeper also tipped a rising drive from Gronkjaer over the Fulham crossbar before diving at the feet of Yorke when the former Manchester United forward took a heavy touch at the critical moment. Yorke then saw a volley excellently saved by Crossley before keeping out a shot from Darren Anderton.
Fulham offered precious little by way of comparison. Mario Melchiot had timed a tackle superbly to prevent Andrew Cole from going for goal midway through the first half and a mistake from Matthew Upson allowed the experienced striker to pick out Claus Jensen but Taylor produced an excellent reaction save. Stan Lazaridis stepped off the bench to replace Yorke after eight weeks out injured, but Birmingham fell victim to a classic smash and grab raid.
Pembridge, who had served notice of his shooting prowess when he extended former Fulham keeper Maik Taylor with an effort from well outside the area on the stroke of half-time, stunned St. Andrew’s into silence when he ventured infield from the right and, as the Blues defence stood off, rifled a fabulous finish into corner of the net from 35 yards.
BIRMINGHAM CITY (4-4-2): Maik Taylor; Melchiot, Cunningham (Johnson 83), Upson, Clapham; Anderton, Clemence, Gronkjaer, Gray; Heskey, Yorke (Lazaridis 73). Subs (not used): Vaesen, Tebily, Martin Taylor.
FULHAM (4-3-3): Crossley; Volz, Bocanegra Knight, Rehman; Pembridge, Diop, Jensen (John 68); Malbranque, Boa Morte, Cole (McBride 87). Subs (not used): Flitney, Green, Rosenior.
BOOKED: Rehman, Cole.
GOAL: Pembridge (76).
REFEREE: Neale Barry (North Lincolnshire).