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Blues 1 Royal Antwerp 3

Posted: Sat 11 Aug 2012
Author: Peter Lewis

Ravel Morrison marked his first Blues appearance with a goal in today’s final pre-season friendly but Belgian visitors Royal Antwerp hit back to secure victory.

The loan signing from West Ham United showed plenty of promise and delighted the home fans with his trickery and poise on the ball.

Morrison put Blues ahead midway through the opening period, however Antwerp came more into it as the game drew on and made the most of their limited chances.

 “I think you can see that he’s a special talent,” commented Blues boss Lee Clark about the former Manchester United trainee. “He’s comfortable on the ball and makes things happen. He scored a terrific goal – that’s something new to his repertoire, a diving header! But I think he showed all Birmingham City fans that there is a special player in there.”

Clark’s side certainly created many more opportunities than their opponents, particularly in the second half, but were just lacking that killer finish.

After taking charge of his first home game as Blues boss, Clark added: “It’s a fantastic venue and the fans are very, very passionate. I hope they’re going to enjoy the football that we play. I think what we’ll see when we get into competitive action now is a more complete performance. Today we were good with the ball but without it we were poor in the first half but better in the second half.

“Over the 90 minutes there were a lot of big positives to take and the lads can be pleased with what they’ve achieved. On another day we could have scored as many goals as Antwerp.”

Clark chose to use this fixture as a chance to give vital playing time to some of the members of his squad who haven’t featured as regularly during pre-season.

Nikola Zigic led the attack supported by Wade Elliott in the hole behind whilst Adam Rooney impressed in a wide role with Peter Lovenkrands operating on the opposite flank. England goalkeeping starlet Jack Butland also both pulled on a Blues first-team shirt for the first time.

The major blot on the afternoon was the early departure of captain Stephen Carr through injury. Clark revealed afterwards: ““He felt a little niggle in his thigh as he crossed the ball. We’re hoping that it’s not too serious but at this stage it’s too early to tell. Hopefully with us taking him off so early that has resulted in the injury not being as bad as we might have feared.”

Blues were straight out of the traps early on as a neat passing move set up Lovenkrands with a shooting opportunity on the left side of the area but his effort was well saved by Antwerp’s new goalkeeper Bjorn Sengier.

Butland’s first action was to tip Nicky Hayen’s header over the bar and Blues were also indebted to Will Packwood, who replaced Carr after five minutes, for a tremendous block as the young American threw himself in front of Omar Bennassar’s close-range shot.

At the other end Elliott and Zigic were both off target with a shot and a header respectively.

Butland was beaten by Freddy Mombongo-Dues’ header into the bottom corner but the Congolese striker’s celebrations were quickly cut short by the assistant’s offside flag.

The hosts took the lead on 24 minutes as Rooney picked up the ball wide on the right and his superb enticing out-swinging cross was headed clinically into the bottom corner by the onrushing Morrison.

Blues held the advantage for only three minutes though as Butland could only parry away Mady Panandetiguiri’s cross-cum-shot and Bennassar had the simple job of tapping the ball into the net from almost on the goal line.

The game turned completely around five minutes before the break after Pablo Ibanez clearly used his arm in an attempt to divert the ball away from danger and Mombongo-Dues clinically despatched his penalty into the top corner.

Just four minutes into the second half and Antwerp were awarded their second penalty of the game.

Again there was little doubt over whether it was the correct decision as young full-back Mitch Hancox slid in on Bennassar inside the area but failed to get the ball and connected with the player instead.

Mombongo-Dues returned to spot-kick duty and this time coolly converted low to Butland left.

Blues had a chance to reduce the arrears when an unmarked Elliott headed over from Rooney’s cross.

Rooney was arguably Blues’ best performer on the day and the Irishman was denied a deserved goal on 65 minutes. The former Inverness striker played the ball out wide to Nathan Redmond and then made his way into the box to connect to the cross but his header was turned over the bar by Sengler.

Rooney got an even better chance to score a few minutes later as he raced clear on goal but his attempted chip over the keeper drifted wide of the far post.

This was a useful final warm-up game for Blues but it is likely to be a very different side that takes to the field at St. Andrew’s on Tuesday evening for the opening competitive match as Barnet are the visitors for a Capital One Cup round one tie.  

Blues: Jack Butland; Stephen Carr (Will Packwood 5), Pablo Ibanez, Steven Caldwell (Curtis Davies ht), Mitch Hancox; Wade Elliott, Morgaro Gomis (Hayden Mullins 74), Ravel Morrison; Peter Lovenkrands (Nathan Redmond 55), Nikola Zigic, Adam Rooney.
Goal: Morrison (24)

Antwerp: Bjorn Semgier, Nicky Hayen, Justice Wamfor, Karel De Smet, Bruno Carvalho (Prince Bobby 61), Sebastjan Komel (Lee Colin 67), Mady Panandetiguiri, John Vermeulen, Freddy Mombongo-Dues (Oumar Diouck 83), Omar Bennassar (Honour Gombami 84), Dieter Van Turnhout (Kevin Roelandts 69).
Goals: Bennassar (27), Mombongo-Dues (pens 40, 49)

Referee: Michael Oliver

Attendance: 5,408 (838 away fans)