Sat 07 Jan 17
at 17:00 PM
Report: Blues 1 Newcastle United 1
Blues and Newcastle will have to do it all again at St. James’ Park in 11 days’ time after playing out a competitive 1-1 draw at St. Andrew’s.
Gianfranco Zola’s men went toe-to-toe with the Championship high-fliers and, after a slow start, dominated the second-half and can count themselves hugely unlucky not to have claimed a place in the Emirates FA Cup fourth round.
In-form Lukas Jutkiewicz maintained his recent purple patch in front of goal, the striker finding the net for the fourth time in five games to cancel out Daryl Murphy’s early opener for the visitors and send the teams in level at the break.
Blues were by far the better side in the second period and Jutkiewicz twice went close late on to snatching victory.
Zola rang the changes from the last league outing with five fresh players given an opportunity to shine, Adam Legzdins, Paul Robinson and Diego Fabbrini all handed their first starts under the new manager. Stephen Gleeson and Maikel Kieftenbeld were also recalled to the starting line-up and the latter in particular took full advantage of his chance with a forceful and commanding performance in the Blues midfield.
Club Captain Robinson made a key early invention as he headed the ball over the bar from a Newcastle corner, with Aleksandar Mitrovic waiting to pounce. But it proved a short-lived reprieve as from the resultant set-piece Murphy forced the ball home after a game of pinball inside the Blues six-yard box.
There was a long delay straight after the goal with Mitrovic suffering what appeared a serious injury during the melee and eventually taken off on a stretcher to be replaced by Yoan Gouffran.
The Newcastle substitute was into the action early, dragging a shot wide from the visitor’s next attack. Legzdins was also equal to the Frenchman’s 25-yard free-kick which was on target but collected comfortably by the Blues keeper.
Zola’s side gradually regained their composure and the hosts’ first promising attack came midway through the half as Robinson threaded a terrific ball out from the back that set Kieftenbeld free in the middle of the park. The Dutchman then picked out Fabbrini on the right and the Italian fizzed a dangerous ball into the box, sadly there was no one in a blue shirt there to make the crucial connection.
Grant Hanley headed over from a corner as Rafael Benitez’s side looked to add to their advantage. Gouffran could have done just that when he latched onto a lofted pass over the top of the Blues defence and managed to poke the ball past Legzdins. Fortunately for Blues, the ball rolled away from the striker who wasn’t able to direct his shot goalwards from almost on the byline.
Newcastle keeper Matz Sels was called into serious action for the first on 37 minutes when David Davis picked up a loose pass and took aim from 20 yards with a low shot, the Belgian between the visitors’ sticks doing well to save down to his right.
Blues continued to press and Jutkiewicz manufactured a shooting chance for himself after barging Cheick Tiote off the ball but his fierce effort from outside the area was well blocked by Hanley.
The Blues striker got his reward from the home side’s next attack on 42 minutes. Jonathan Grounds did well to get past Deandre Yedlin on the left side of the area and fired a great ball into the six-yard box where Jutkiewicz was perfectly positioned to turn it home.
The Club’s first January transfer window recruit was on the hunt for a second goal soon afterwards as he challenged Sels for a ball which bounced into the visitors’ area. It was enough to make the Newcastle custodian unable to claim it but the Magpies eventually scrambled clear.
Just like Newcastle after their opening goal, Blues were forced into a substitution after the equaliser with Jonathan Spector hobbling off to be replaced by Josh Dacres-Cogley. The young full-back also made an immediate impact as his ball into the box was cleared as far as Grounds just inside the area. The defender fired in a shot that flew just a few yards over the bar.
Blues started the second-half in confident fashion, spraying passes around with delightful ease. Fabbrini was first to test Sels after collecting Gleeson’s header and firing in a low shot from 25 yards that was claimed by the Newcastle keeper.
Dacres-Cogley was eager to make the most of his chance. The youngster was involved in a nice move down the right and, after playing a quick one-two with Fabbrini, fired in a cross but Newcastle cleared the danger.
Blues put together another impressive foray into the Newcastle half on 67 minutes when Davis sent Adams away down the left and he returned the ball to his midfield team-mate who let fly with a curling effort from 25 yards which brought another save from Sels.
It took until 75 minutes for Newcastle to launch their first meaningful attack on the Blues goal in the second-half, substitute Matt Ritchie fizzing a dangerous cross into the six-yard box but the ball ran away for a goal kick.
Fabbrini’s last involvement was an attempt to get on the end of a terrific left-wing cross from Jutkiewicz but Achraf Lazaar got to it first to clear the danger, Blues’ diminutive Italian replaced by Greg Stewart soon afterwards.
A golden chance went begging for Blues on 82 minutes when Dacres-Cogley surged down the right and delivered a pinpoint cross into the area. Frustratingly, the usually-reliable Jutkiewicz seemed to lose track of the flight of the ball and glanced his header wide from six yards.
The former Burnley man was a lot closer to clinching victory three minutes from the end of normal time. This time it was a cross from the left by Davis which the striker met well but his header bounced narrowly wide.
Blues and Newcastle will both go into Monday’s draw for the last 32 and are scheduled to meet again at St. James’ Park on Wednesday 18 January.