Birmingham City


Injury-time goals from Mileta Rajović and Ryan Andrews powered Watford to a dramatic second win of the Sky Bet Championship season at the expense of the previously unbeaten Brimingham City, with the teams’ lively Vicarage Road encounter finishing 2-0.

The Hornets went close through Matheus Martins, Ryan Porteous and Tom Dele-Bashiru in the first 45, without properly testing John Ruddy on too many occasions, while Jay Stansfield looked particularly dangerous for John Eustace’s Blues at the other end.

A flurry of changes preceded an increase in opportunities after the interval, but the hosts were forced to wait until the clock was in the red before Rajović headed in his third goal in two games, and Andrews opened his account on the professional scene.

Victory and a third clean sheet of the campaign lifts Valérien Ismaël’s charges up to 11th in the league standings, and they will be looking for a similar result when they entertain West Bromwich Albion back at home on Wednesday evening (September 20, 7.45pm KO).

Head Coach Ismaël made two changes to the XI that started the entertaining draw at Coventry City last time out, with Jeremy Ngakia and James Morris coming into the defence in place of Ryan Andrews and Ken Sema respectively, while summer signing Jamal Lewis was named in the matchday squad for the first time.

All inside The Vic united in remembering those impacted by the tragic disasters in Morocco and Libya by observing a period of silence before kick-off, following a few pre-match words from new Club Ambassador Luther Blissett OBE DL, and with the game underway it was the visitors who enjoyed the first chance, Stansfield forcing a stop from Bachmann within 45 seconds.

Birmingham full-back Cody Drameh was given an early yellow card for a heavy challenge out wide, and from the resultant free-kick goalkeeper Ruddy had to be alert to tip Martins’ wicked ball over his crossbar.

Martins was again the architect of a good Watford chance in the ninth minute, the Brazilian’s latest teasing cross dropping to Porteous at the back post, whose low drive deflected back into play off the post.

Effective pressing from Stansfield and Oliver Burke almost engineered a couple of opportunities for the Blues while the Hornets were finding it difficult to break defensive lines despite their healthy share of possession.

Their patience was almost rewarded in the 33rd minute when Dele-Bashiru worked his way into some space before firing marginally over the crossbar, and then another marauding run by the 23-year-old drew Lee Buchanan into a foul that earned the away full-back a booking.

Krystian Bielik was next to be cautioned for a lunging tackle on Imrân Louza 25 yards out, though Martins could only find the wall from the subsequent free-kick, and the teams continued to cancel each other out until Keith Stroud’s whistle signalled the half-time break.

The club’s age-group talent paraded the pitch at half-time to mark ‘Academy Matchday’, before the game resumed with Lewis having replaced Morris at left-back for his debut in yellow and black.

A sumptuous Ngakia ball threaded Rajović through the City defence within a couple of minutes of the restart, but the Dane was just not quite able to find a teammate across goal, and it wasn’t long before Yáser Asprilla entered the fray for Tom Ince.

Asprilla was immediately involved as his vital interception on halfway brought a Birmingham counter-attack to a halt, initiating a coming together between the two sets of players that ended with Stansfield being booked for a shove on Porteous.

The lively Stansfield then went close to breaking the deadlock close to the hour mark with a curling shot from range that struck the outside of the post, and with the game hotting up Ivan Šunjić was next to receive a yellow card for a studs-up challenge on Martins.

Coaches Dean Whitehead and Keith Downing were also booked for their part in a war of words on the touchline, while back on the pitch Chakvetadze and Ismaël Koné were brought on for Martins and Dele-Bashiru.

Ngakia stung a long-range effort just past the post with little over 20 minutes to go, before Chakvetadze called Ruddy into action with an angled shot, yet Bachmann had to keep on his guard to make a stunning double save back at the other end to prevent Scott Hogan nicking all three points for Birmingham.

Buchanan was given his marching orders in the dying stages of normal time - receiving a second yellow for a tug on Asprilla - and the Hornets immediately made their numerical advantage count when Rajović rose highest to skilfully head past Ruddy to make it 1-0.

With the game’s momentum in their favour Watford continually pushed the Blues further into their own half, and the crowd were soon treated to a second goal when substitute Andrews fired past Ruddy - via a Kevin Long deflection - to open his account at senior level on ‘Academy Matchday’ and put the result beyond all doubt.


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