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Birmingham bow to pressure

Penalty blunderers Birmingham threw away the chance of FA Cup glory and allowed Liverpool to kill off their third round jinx.

The Endsleigh Division Two leaders took the five-times winners to a penalty shoot-out and raised Anfield's fears of a third consecutive third round replay defeat, following the disasters against Bolton and Bristol City.

But Barry Fry's men could not find the net in four attempts and Liverpool finally squeezed a nervous pass from this B-test to set up another examination - away to Burnley.

Liverpool led through Jamie Redknapp's first Anfield goal of the season after 21 minutes, and if the England B midfielder had taken the chance to improve his poor scoring record, the game would have been well over by the hour.

But Birmingham battled back and their new hero, million pound signing Ricky Otto, sparked jubilant celebration among the 8000 travelling fans with his superbly taken 69th minute equaliser.

They survived extra-time and a disallowed Ian Rush record-equalling goal to force the lottery of a shoot-out which produced more than its usual drama.

Former Everton player Mark Ward shot wide, but Neil Ruddock's effort was saved by Ian Bennett.

But Steve McGavin allowed David James to save, Liam Daish blasted high over and Gary Cooper hammered his spot-kick against the bar.
So Redknapp's drive under Bennett's bar and Stig Inge Bjornebye's cool shot into the corner saw the 1992 winners safely into the last 32 for the first time in three years.

They should have won far more comfortably. But the Midlands underdogs snapped and harried Liverpool heels, with both Rush and Fowler complaining about too little protection from referee Jimmy Parker.

Liverpool's 10 million pound defence had a busy time too as Birmingham searched for openings that Otto and Louie Donowa could exploit with their pace.

The towering height of the watching Kevin Francis, set to complete his on-off 800,000 pound transfer from Stockport, would have offered Birmingham another option.

Instead, the stalemate of St Andrews' seemed set to endure on Merseyside until Redknapp's thunderbolt from nowhere in the 21st minute.

Taking a pass from Fowler some 30 yards out wide on the right, there seemed little danger until he let rip with his right foot, the ball rattling the far upright, smacking down and in off the right shoulder of goalkeeper Ian Bennett.

Unless ruled an own goal by the FA adjudicators, it was the England B midfielder's fourth goal of the season, matching last season's tally. 

Copyright -  British Soccer Week

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