Hoop-la!

Adrian at the Carling Cup final at Wembley in 2011

Birmingham City 1 – Norwich City 3

Saturday, February 27 2021

Saturday 27 February, a momentous day for Birmingham City. Ten years to the day since the best day I’ve had as a Blues’ supporter and one of the best in my life. While this unlikely turnaround win clearly isn’t on a par, there’s something about 2-1 wins on this particular date that suits Blues.

A strange game in many ways, as Blues were undeserving of their half time deficit and, on the performance after the break, undeserving of their two goals in a couple of minutes in the last 10 which won the game.

Added to this was the major contributions of two of the substitutes which, for the second game in a row, had actually made Blues worse rather than better and it was all a bit weird. As was the feeling of actually winning a football match at home.

No changes in the staring line-up, the win against Sheffield Wednesday and performance against Norwich worthy of another go for the starting 11.

For the majority of the first half it was all Blues, as they started confidently and knocked the ball around well with an energy and a press that had been missing for most of the first half of the season.

The wings were the main focus of this industry with Sanchez and Bela, backed up by the rejuvenated Pedersen, getting in behind QPR’s wing-backs and supplying a number of crosses into the box and winning an unheard of six corners in the first period.

There was nobody on the end of those crosses though, Jukey sitting on the bench again, and the hard-working Hogan not one to put himself about physically on the far post.

The best two chances in the first half resulted in good saves from the QPR ‘keeper, Dieng. A long shot from the industrious Gardner and one at the near post when Bela had judged the awkwardly bouncing ball better than the defenders to rifle in a shot.

But, as against Norwich in midweek, QPR took the lead against the run of play with their first chance of the game on the stroke of half-time. Blues full-backs didn’t cover themselves in glory, Pedersen too easily beaten by the wing-back, Kane, who slung the ball over to the far post where Austin, with Colin nowhere to be seen, tapped in.

Harsh on Blues, but the game’s often about taking your chances when they come. Norwich had done that, now QPR did it, but Blues, in both games, didn’t – well, not until later.

Second half, Blues were poor and as the game progressed it looked more likely that the Hoops would add a second rather than us witnessing a Blues equaliser.

This feeling was compounded by Karanka’s substitutions. The best defender, midfielder and forward were all off in one go, Roberts, Leko and Haililovic replacing Clarke-Salter, Gardner and Bela.

After the substitutions, from a poor staring point Blues got noticeably worse, as they changed their system to accommodated the newcomers. It felt like a re-run of the Norwich game, where the subs made us less likely to get back into a match we were only trailing by one, rather than more.

But, once again, what do I know? Thirty-five years plus watching the Blues and the game still remains wonderfully unpredictable.

“… just as I was thinking that Halilovic was another one of these nice looking players with no end product, he curled in a beauty from the edge of the box”

Who could have predicted that Roberts, after the ball came back to him after his 1,004th failed long throw in a row, would curl in a sumptuous cross to the far post where the left full-back, Pedersen, appeared on the right side of the box to head home.

And just as I was thinking that Halilovic was another one of these nice looking players with no end product, he curled in a beauty from the edge of the box.

Suddenly, Karanka’s substitutions were looking like genius and, really, on the evidence of the season so far, who could have predicted that?

First win at home in 122 days, first time we’ve come from behind to win since Bristol City away in February 2020.

Like two experienced Arsenal players crashing into each other to hand us the cup, watching Blues remains gloriously unpredictable, one of the reasons we keep coming back for more.

MoM – Kristian Pedersen – a goal as well as a pivotal role in the first half in particular. Almost gave it Halilovic for the goal alone.

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