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ZIGIC PUTS BLUES IN A TIGHT SPOT.

By JIM O'BRIEN BIRMINGHAM paid the price for Nikola Zigic's missed penalty as defeat left them on the brink of missing the knockout stages.

The Serbian saw his 11th-minute spot-kick saved by goalkeeper Quim and the hosts won thanks to Hugo Viana's 50th-minute strike which took a huge deflection off Curtis Davies.

The result saw Braga qualify for the last 32 from a tight Group H based on their head-to-head record and a 3-1 victory at St Andrew's on matchday one, while Club Brugge's dramatic fightback to claim a 4-3 victory over bottom club Maribor also sent them three points clear of City.

It left Blues needing to defeat Maribor in the final round of fixtures and hope Brugge and Braga do not play out a draw which would see the Belgian side through.

The visitors, attacking the iconic end containing the backdrop of a rock wall of the quarry within which the stadium stands, made a positive start in front of a sparse crowd.

Wade Elliott and Chris Burke were enjoying particular success down the right channel and it was from that area that the former won a penalty for Blues when he was brought down by Ewerton on the edge of the box.

However, Zigic saw the golden opportunity slip from his grasp as Quim dived to his left to produce a great parried save.

The Braga stopper was again called into action to keep out David Murphy's free-kick and skipper Steven Caldwell's header.

Braga steadied the ship after the early pressure and kept possession well, although only Mossoro went close with a curled effort.

Despite Braga's neat approach play, City goalkeeper Boaz Myhill was still to make a save of note.

Helder Barbosa passed up a great chance to test the Welshman as halftime approached but he completely fluffed his attempted shot from Alan's low pass.

Keith Fahey could have made the Portuguese side pay at the other end but saw his low drive swallowed up by Quim on the stroke of half-time.

Yet just minutes after halftime Hughton's side saw all their good work unravelled thanks to a chunk of misfortune.

Viana, formerly of Newcastle, received the ball 30 yards out and his leftfooted effort took a huge deflection off the unfortunate Davies and wrong-footed Myhill.

King and Burke got in each other's way when either man could have scored the equaliser while 10 minutes from time Lima was clean through on goal but was denied by Myhill, with Paulo Cesar BRAGA: Quim, Ewerton, Echiejile (Douglao 68), Mossoro (Merida 84), Djamal, Leandro Salino, Vinicius, Hugo Viana, Barbosa (Paulo Cesar 68), Lima, Alan.

BIRMINGHAM: Myhill, Murphy, Caldwell, Spector, Davies, Burke, N'daw, Beausejour (Redmond 64), Elliott (King 64), Fahey, Zigic (Wood 76).

REF: M Strombergsson.

CAPTION(S):

POISON PEN Nikola Zigic sees his penalty saved as Birmingham crash to defeat
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 1, 2011
Words:472
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