Report: Blues 0-1 Plymouth Argyle (AET)
Blues were beaten after extra-time by Plymouth Argyle in the Emirates FA Cup on Saturday teatime.
Ryan Law’s goal in the 104th minute proved the difference after George Friend was sent-off midway through the second-half for two yellow cards.
The defeat for Lee Bowyer’s men at St. Andrew’s sees them exit the competition in round three.
Blues were most recently in action when they welcomed Queens Park Rangers to B9 six days ago and there were five changes to that side. This included a debut for recent arrival Teden Mengi and a return to First Team action for Tate Campbell, with Neil Etheridge, Scott Hogan and Ryan Woods the other returnees.
There was little significant incident inside the opening quarter of an hour as both sides tried their best to play on a greasy surface. Although Jordan James continued to show real promise, with a marauding run which produced a shooting opportunity for Scott Hogan and, on his first start, Mengi kept close tabs on Plymouth’s topscorer Ryan Hardie.
From these moments of action, Blues started to put their stamp on the game and a neat interchange between Hogan and Campbell saw the ball laid back to Gary Gardner, only for his teasing centre to prove slightly overhit.
Plymouth responded with a threat of their own and a neat touch from Hardie took him round a sprawling Etheridge who impressively recovered to twice deny the striker just yards from goal.
At the other end, Hogan kept Mike Cooper on his toes with an inventive flicked header, but it was a tale of missed chances for the visitors that brought the opening 45 to a close. Both Danny Mayor and Jordan Garrick did well to craft out shooting opportunities before losing their composure when it came to pulling the trigger.
Half-time: Blues 0–0 Plymouth Argyle
The opening stages of the second period saw yet more cat and mouse as the sides did their best to cancel one another out. Gardner had a low free-kick - won by James’ bravery - blocked by the wall and Argyle had a penalty appeal dismissed when West Midlands native Niall Ennis fell without contact inside the box.
Etheridge then showed his worth and shot-stopping pedigree to deny Garrick from eight yards out after a cross found its way in from the left, but just moments later Blues were faced with a bigger problem as George Friend was shown a second yellow card after tangling with Ennis.
Bowyer’s response was to attack, and Jobe Bellingham was introduced for his professional debut in the 71st minute. Although playing with ten men would always offer up Plymouth opportunities on the counter, but Etheridge again came out on top in a one-on-one dual with Garrick – this time standing tall and beating the ball behind.
The ‘keeper was then beaten by an Ennis strike but had earned some good fortune and deserved to be helped out by the goalframe and the ball cannoned off the foot of the post to see the game head into extra-time.
Full-time: Blues 0-0 Plymouth Argyle
The initial period of extra-time brought efforts on goal at either end. Mayor and Grant both tested Etheridge, while Chuks Aneke had a driven attempt skid the wrong side of the goal.
But just when it seemed the hosts had successfully navigated the first 15 minutes they went behind. Law sensed a chance and took it, firing a searing left-footed shot into the far corner from just outside of the 18-yard box.
True to the Club’s spirit to Keep Right On, Blues would refuse to go quietly and Aneke was a matter of inches from finding the net with a zipping shot. However, this was as close as the home side would come to taking events the distance as they bowed out of the tournament.
Friend’s dismissal with 20 minutes of normal time to play gave the League One outfit a boost and from this they pushed on.
Blues exit the Emirates FA Cup at the third round stage, with their remaining 2021/22 First Team matches to come in the Sky Bet Championship.
Blues (4-4-1-1): Neil Etheridge, Maxime Colin (Josh Williams 106), Teden Mengi, George Friend, Kristian Pedersen, Tate Campbell, Ryan Woods (Ivan Sunjic 90+5), Jordan James (Jobe Bellingham 70), Gary Gardner (Alfie Chang 106), Troy Deeney (captain), Scott Hogan (Chuks Aneke 88).
Substitutes not used: Connal Trueman, Juan Castillo, Mitch Roberts, Remi Walker.
Booking: Woods 28, Friend 58 and sent off 69, Aneke 90+6.
Plymouth Argyle (5-3-2): Mike Cooper, Joe Edwards (captain), James Bolton, Dan Scarr, Macaulay Gillesphey, Conor Grant, Adam Randell (Ryan Law 97), Jordan Houghton, Danny Mayor, Ryan Hardie (Niall Ennis 53), Jordon Garrick (Alfie Lewis 119).
Substitutes not used: Callum Burton, Brandon Pursall, Carlo Garside, Rhys Shirley, Freddie Issaka.
Booking: Jordan Houghton 55.
Referee: Rebecca Welch.
Blues return to Sky Bet Championship action next weekend as they make the trip to Preston North End before a midweek outing for the rearranged clash away at Fulham. It is then back to St. Andrew’s in a fortnight’s time, with Barnsley the visitors to B9.