Fri, Dec 03, 2010 - Page 19 News List

Fans invade after Birmingham beat Villa

AFP, LONDON

Birmingham fans confront police on the pitch on Wednesday after winning their soccer match against Aston Villa at St Andrew’s Stadium in Birmingham, England.

Photo: REUTERS

Birmingham knocked city rivals Aston Villa out of the League Cup with a 2-1 victory at St Andrews on Wednesday.

However, the result threatened to be overshadowed by a mass pitch invasion after the final whistle that saw thousands of City fans take to the field and confront Villa supporters, with missiles being thrown.

Nikola Zagic’s goal six minutes from time saw Birmingham through to the last four and gave the Blues a measure of revenge over Villa manager Gerard Houllier. Serbia international Zigic’s deflected shot settled the tie after Villa’s Gabriel Agbonlahor had canceled out an early Sebastian Larsson penalty.

Houllier was Liverpool’s manager when they defeated Birmingham in the 2001 League Cup final.

In Wednesday’s other -quarter--final, under-fire manager Roy Keane guided second-tier Ipswich to a 1-0 win over Premier League side West Brom at Portman Road thanks to Grant Leadbitter’s second-half penalty.

Birmingham will now play West Ham, 4-0 conquerors of holders Manchester United on Tuesday, in a two-legged semi-final next month when Ipswich will face Arsenal after the Gunners 2-0 win over Wigan.

The Blues’ win over Villa was their first over their local rivals for five-and-a-half years.

They went ahead against the run of play after Lee Bowyer was brought down by Villa captain Richard Dunne.

Larsson sent the resulting penalty low to beat American keeper Brad Friedel.

Birmingham thought they’d scored again after 28 minutes when Zigic’s low shot was pulled back by Friedel when replays suggested it may have crossed the goal-line.

However, a linesman’s raised flag led to Liam Ridgewell being ruled offside.

Villa then cashed in when, after the half-hour mark, -Agbonlahor latched onto Jonathan Hogg’s through-ball and struck a powerful shot past Ben Foster.

Both sides had further chances to score before Cameron Jerome sprinted down the right and his low cross found Zigic, whose shot deflected off Luke Young and looped over Friedel. Villa nearly pushed the tie into extra-time when Ciaran Clark headed just over from Stewart Downing’s cross.

Meanwhile, English soccer chiefs pressed for the “stiffest available sanctions” for those involved in the pitch invasion that threatened to tarnish the UK’s bid to stage the 2018 World Cup.

Just a day before delegates from world soccer governing body FIFA were to vote in Zurich after press time on both the 2018 and 2022 World Cup hosts, the pitch invasion was a scene that Birmingham boss Alex McLeish said was a return to the “Dark Ages” of the 1980s when English soccer was synonymous with fan violence.

Police and stewards could not stop some thousand fans pouring onto the pitch at St Andrew’s, with missiles being thrown.

The invading Birmingham fans confronted Villa supporters in the Gil Merrick Stand, with dozens of seats ripped up and a flare thrown between the rival groups.

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