Papa Bouba Diop delivered another decisive late goal as Fulham came from behind to claim a dramatic win at Birmingham City.
The Senegalese midfielder added a late header at St. Andrew’s to his collection of goals that have rescued Chris Coleman’s side as the Whites roared back to inflict Birmingham’s fourth straight Premiership defeat. Diop’s powerful header with eight minutes remaining followed a controversial Andy Cole penalty as the Londoners recovered from the setback of Moritz Volz scoring an own goal six minutes after half time.
A forgettable first half had very little to distinguish it apart from robust challenges that referee Phil Dowd appeared happy to let go. Luis Boa Morte nearly embarrassed former Fulham goalkeeper Maik Taylor by charging down his clearance but the ricochet flew wide of goal. Cole almost broke the deadlock after being picked out by Carlos Bocanegra’s long ball and his deft finish crept narrowly wide.
Damien Johnson spurned two half chances for Blues and Fulham were soon to rue Boa Morte’s miss when clear of the Birmingham defence four minutes into the second half. Steve Bruce’s side stormed up the other end and went in front when Emile Heskey bundled in at the far post after Clinton Morrison had helped Mario Melchiot’s ball across goal. The final touch might have come off the unfortunate Volz, but the goal owed much to Heskey’s persistence.
Fulham pushed for an equaliser but found Taylor in excellent form. The Northern Ireland international did well to palm over a fierce Cole shot after Volz had found the veteran forward with a fine pass and Boa Morte was booked for throwing himself to the ground in the penalty. The home fans were incensed when Dowd adjudged that Johnson had clipped the Portuguese winger in the box and awarded a penalty – with television replays suggesting the contact was minimal. Cole converted the penalty and Fulham looked the likelier winners all of a sudden.
Their comeback was complete when Diop headed home Mark Pembridge’s free kick after being left completely unmarked.
BIRMINGHAM CITY (4-4-2): Maik Taylor; Melchiot, Clapham, Cunningham, Martin Taylor (Yorke 86); Johnson (Anderton 83), Diao, Carter, Gray; Morrison (Blake 69), Heskey. Subs (not used): Vaesen, Tebily.
GOAL: Volz (o.g. 51).
FULHAM (4-3-3): van der Sar; Volz, Bocanegra, Knight, Rehman; Diop, Pembridge, Clark; Radzinski, Boa Morte, Cole (McBride 89). Subs (not used): Crossley, Rosenior, Legwinski, John.
BOOKED: Boa Morte, Diop, Bocanegra.
GOALS: Cole (pen 78), Diop (83).
REFEREE: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire).