This should have been remembered as the day when Nikola Zigic etched his name into Birmingham City folklore, but instead this Carling Cup quarter-final will be recalled for all the wrong reasons. Alex McLeish said his team would have loved to celebrate their first victory over Aston Villa in five years by milking the applause in the centre circle at the final whistle, but a pitch that had become a battleground for fans was no place for footballers.
A fierce contest was heading for extra-time when Zigic, who was about to be substituted after another vapid display, struck the winner. There was no great finesse to it as his scrambled shot deflected off Luke Young and looped over Brad Friedel, but neither Zigic nor the fans will care how the ball ended up in the net. All that mattered for the home fans was that Birmingham had defeated their city rivals to reach the last four.
The blow seemed harsh on Villa, who had dominated much of the second half. Yet despite monopolising possession there was little threat and it was not until the final 10 minutes, when Ben Foster saved from Stephen Ireland, that Birmingham came under serious threat. The home side had created far better chances during the first half and were entitled to feel aggrieved that they had a good goal disallowed before Gabriel Agbonlahor equalised. Zigic's shot in the 28th minute, after Stephen Warnock could only half clear Roger Johnson's header, crossed the line despite Friedel's attempt to claw it to safety.The forward wheeled away but his celebrations were cut short when the assistant referee raised his flag. Liam Ridgewell was clearly stood in an offside position but it was questionable whether he was interfering. Their frustration deepened two minutes later.
Jonathan Hogg, one of three youngsters in the Villa starting line-up and a combative presence in central midfield throughout, threaded a pass that invited Agbonlahor to bear down on the Birmingham goal and he held off the midfielder before steering a right-foot shot across Foster. It was his third goalat St Andrew's in his last three visits.
Birmingham had gone ahead in the 12th minute, when Sebastian Larsson dispatched a penalty after Richard Dunne brought down Lee Bowyer.
Their reward for the win is a two-leg semi-final against West Ham and the club's former owners, David Gold and David Sullivan, now in charge at Upton Park.
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