REPORT: ALBION 2 BIRMINGHAM 1
- Solly March and Bobby Zamora on target for Albion
- Jon Toral equalises for Birmingham
- The Seagulls return to the top of the Championship
- Chris Hughton’s men equal QPR’s record of going 19 Championship matches unbeaten
Brighton & Hove Albion returned to the top of the Sky Bet Championship table after a 2-1 win over Birmingham City, in a scintillating contest at the Amex.
A goal in each half from Solly March and Bobby Zamora sealed another three points for Chris Hughton's side, equalling Queen Park Rangers’ record of going unbeaten for the first 19 games of a Championship season.
Loanees Rajiv van La Parra and James Wilson were both named on the bench, alongside Inigo Calderon - who returned to the squad after recovering from an illness.
The Seagulls started the game brightly and took the lead in the 17th minute when March fired home past Tomasz Kuszczak at the second attempt after some terrific link-up play between Jamie Murphy and Liam Rosenior.
But the joy was short lived as Birmingham equalised only four minutes later when David Stockdale could only parry Jacques Maghoma’s shot into the path of Jon Toral, who headed home from close range.
Play was paused midway through the first half after Rosenior was stretchered off the pitch following a robust challenge, to be replaced by Calderon.
The visitors were inches away from scoring a second goal within a minute of the restart, but Nicolai Brock-Madsen’s strike curled over the crossbar.
Controversy ensued just past the half-hour mark when Kuszczak spilled the ball over the line from March’s free-kick, but referee Gavin Ward ruled out the seemingly legitimate goal; a decision which sparked fury from Albion's players.
Kuszczak redeemed himself by producing a fine left-handed stop to keep out a terrific strike by Beram Kayal.
The former Albion shot-stopper was called into action again just moments later, after he pushed March’s in-swinging free-kick over the crossbar.
Toral was close to getting his and Birmingham’s second in first-half stoppage time, after his swerving effort went inches wide.
The Seagulls got themselves back in front in the 47th minute as Murphy crossed the ball into March, whose shot was deflected and Zamora was there to fire the ball home.
Hemed was next to come close for Albion when he was allowed to swivel inside the box, but Kuszczak was on hand to make a low save.
Zamora departed the pitch to a standing ovation and was replaced by Wilson, who came on to make his Albion debut after arriving on loan from Manchester United.
The forward almost made an immediate impact, but some excellent defending from the visitors prevented his shot from going on target.
March made a driving run down the right flank and looked for Wilson inside the area, but Kuszczak was out quickly to thwart the forward.
Demarai Gray was next to come close for the visitors, but David Stockdale was on hand to make a strong stop at the near post.
Wilson had two more chances to add extra gloss to the scoreline; the first came after the forward latched onto Hemed’s pass saw his shot go just across the face of the goal.
The second saw Kayal play a perfectly-weighted ball into his path and after going one-on-one with Kuszczak his shot agonisingly rebounded off the post.
There was still time for one last moment of drama, as Stockdale made a superb stop to keep out a shot from David Davis but the Seagulls took all three points to move two points clear of
Middlesbrough at the top of the table.
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