Blues’ hopes of making the last eight of this season’s Capital One Cup were cruelly dashed on Tuesday evening as they were beaten 4-2 on penalties by Stoke City.
The spot-kicks followed a sensational 120 minutes of football in which Blues battled their way to a 4-4 draw despite playing the majority of the game with ten men after Wade Elliott was sent for an early bath.
Lee Clark made four changes to the side that drew with Derby in the league last weekend. Colin Doyle, Lee Novak, Tom Adeyemi and Shane Ferguson all started, in place of Darren Randolph, David Murphy, Chris Burke and Andy Shinnie.
It was a cagey opening spell from both sides, with the majority of the football being played in the centre of the park.
But the deadlock didn’t last long as Stoke found themselves ahead after just ten minutes. To be fair to the visitors it was a fantastic finish by Oussama Assaidi. Steven N’Zonzi threaded the ball across to him and the striker blasted a thunderous effort off the underside of the bar and past Colin Doyle from close to 25 yards out.
But Blues were back in the contest just before the half-hour mark courtesy of Tom Adeyemi. It was a fantastic team goal from Blues, which was started by Adeyemi in his own half and finished by the same player in the Stoke box. Prior to it reaching Adeyemi, the ball was passed seamlessly between Wade Elliott, Callum Reilly, Mitch Hancox, Nikola Zigic and Lee Novak before Novak laid it on a plate for Adeyemi to side foot it home.
As the half progressed the game really began to hot up, with challenges flying in from both sides, but Blues were more than holding their own.
With three minutes to go to the break Novak came close for Blues, but his shot was saved low down by Thomas.
But then disaster struck for Clark’s side in stoppage time at the end of the half when Elliott was given a straight red card following an incident involving Stoke goalscorer Assaidi.
Buoyed by their man advantage, Stoke understandably began the second half on the front foot and they were constantly pushing Blues back.
And sure enough they took the lead with 55 minutes played. Assaidi crossed the ball to the far post where Peter Crouch was available to send a well-directed header past Doyle and into the back of the net.
Despite their numerical disadvantage Blues were still showing plenty of spirit, although their attacking forays tended to be on the break.
With 71 minutes gone Marko Arnautovic made it 3-1 to Stoke when he swept the ball past Doyle from the edge of the box.
However, Blues were certainly not finished as an attacking force and they pulled a goal back through Peter Lovenkrands with five minutes of normal time remaining. Olly Lee’s free-kick was met by captain Paul Robinson who fed it back across the box for the Danish forward to fire it home.
A minute later Blues went desperately close to claiming an equaliser when Novak’s powerful shot was well-saved by Sorensen.
Then with the game three minutes into stoppage time St. Andrew’s erupted into joyous celebrations as Lovenkrands scored his second and Blues’ third goal to level the scores at 3-3. He owed it to a sensational run and shot from Demarai Gray which was pushed into his path by Sorensen.
The game went into extra-time and with four minutes gone Kenwyne Jones skipped past Doyle and slid the ball home to make it 4-3.
But with all seemingly lost, Blues’ just kept on going and going and with two minutes remaining Olly Lee fired the ball home to make it 4-4 and send the game into penalties.
Unfortunately Mitch Hancox and Callum Reilly missed Blues’ first two spot-kicks and Stoke scored all four of theirs to win the tie.