Resurgent Birmingham City claimed their biggest scalp of the season as John Eustace’s side battled their way to victory over high-flying Queens Park Rangers.
QPR, second in the Championship and needing to win to go back on top, were done no favours by two of their London neighbours as Blues won with first-half goals from two loan men – Arsenal’s American defender Auston Trusty and West Ham wing-back Manny Longelo.
Any hopes that Michael Beale’s side might turn it round after the break were then ended with Blues goalkeeper John Ruddy’s fine 79th-minute penalty save to deny Lyndon Dykes.
After winning four times in five away games, this was a second straight defeat on the road for QPR, while Blues’ third win in five – in front of 19,007, their biggest home crowd since before the Covid pandemic, lifts them into the top half.
It looked on the cards right from the moment when, in an already bouncing atmosphere at the reduced-capacity ground, still affected by the loss of 10,000 seats because of a delayed stadium refurbishment, Blues stole ahead in only the fourth minute with a freakish but inspired opening goal.
Krystian Bielik redirected the ball back into the box after a corner broke to him on the edge of the penalty area. But, with his back to goal, Trusty showed great awareness to acrobatically deliver the ball into the six-yard box with a flick of his outstretched right leg, and it looped just out of Rangers keeper Seny Dieng’s reach and under the bar.
Blues were then 2-0 up just before the half-hour mark when, from a sweeping move of first-time passes from Scott Hogan, Hannibal Mejbri and Bielik the ball was delivered out to Longelo wide on the left and the West Ham loan man cut inside, transferred the ball to his right foot and drilled a low shot beyond Dieng to find the bottom right corner.
QPR had their chances, when Ruddy touched Ilias Chair’s curling free-kick over and saved from Dykes after former West Brom striker Tyler Roberts’ side-footed effort from the edge of the box had deflected up off Harlee Dean and on to the roof of the net.
And, in a game of seven bookings, it could have been a different outcome just after the break when on-loan Manchester United teenager Mejbri went unpunished for a challenge on Ethan Laird – also a United loanee – which could easily have warranted a second yellow card.
But Ruddy saved his best for Dykes 11 minutes from time when Longelo was adjudged to have raised his foot too high on Laird as he dived low to head the ball – and referee Tim Robinson awarded a dubious penalty.
The penalty came at a nice height, Ruddy dived to his right to get both hands on it – and that completed a miserable return to the West Midlands for former Aston Villa number two Beale.
The QPR head coach also lost two players, Jake Clarke-Salter and Roberts, to injury in the space of six first-half minutes.
Birmingham City manager John Eustace told BBC Sport:
“John Ruddy’s a top performer with the experience he brings. It was a great save for the penalty. Like Troy Deeney and Scott Hogan, it highlights just how important our experienced players are.
“But I was very proud of the whole performance. We showed great character after the break to dig in and get a result.
“QPR are a fantastic team, We just wanted to be committed and competitive in everything we did and it’s great to hear the fans getting such a good connection. It was brilliant having so many in.
“I was actually contemplating bringing Hannibal off at half-time. He assured me he’d be OK but that’s why I brought him off. He plays on the edge, that’s why he’s such a good young player but he has to realise the importance of managing the game. He’s a 19-year-old still learning.”
QPR boss Michael Beale:
“Everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong, but I don’t want it to be just ‘one of those nights’. I want it be the night.
“We had the opportunity from the penalty spot but we were poor and I didn’t think the referee had a great game either – but I don’t want to moan about the officials when we weren’t anywhere near as good as we could have been ourselves.
“And I don’t want that to come across as sour grapes and take anything away from Birmingham. They have a bit of a recipe against the top teams this season. They’ve got a bit of spirit and they made the game ugly for us.
“John Eustace made the right call to get Hannibal off. I like the boy. He’s got a lot of spirit about him. it’s the way he plays, but I don’t think there’s anyone who doesn’t think that wasn’t a second yellow card.”
- 5TrustyBooked at 35mins
- 18ChongSubstituted forHallat 81′minutes
- 31BielikBooked at 55mins
- 6MejbriBooked at 7minsSubstituted forBacunaat 54′minutes
- 23LongeloBooked at 78mins
- 9HoganSubstituted forJamesat 88′minutes
- 8DeeneySubstituted forJutkiewiczat 81′minutes
- 26BalogunBooked at 60mins
- 5Clarke-SalterSubstituted forDickieat 21′minutesBooked at 53mins
- 6JohansenSubstituted forAmosat 45′minutes
- 15FieldSubstituted forRichardsat 80′minutes
- 11RobertsSubstituted forArmstrongat 27′minutes
- 47IroegbunamBooked at 70mins
Match ends, Birmingham City 2, Queens Park Rangers 0.
Second Half ends, Birmingham City 2, Queens Park Rangers 0.
Taylor Richards (Queens Park Rangers) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by George Hall (Birmingham City).
Corner, Queens Park Rangers. Conceded by Krystian Bielik.
Attempt missed. Taylor Richards (Queens Park Rangers) left footed shot from outside the box misses to the right. Assisted by Tim Iroegbunam.
Attempt missed. Luke Amos (Queens Park Rangers) right footed shot from outside the box is too high.
Attempt missed. Tim Iroegbunam (Queens Park Rangers) left footed shot from the left side of the box is just a bit too high.
Taylor Richards (Queens Park Rangers) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Auston Trusty (Birmingham City).
Substitution, Birmingham City. Jordan James replaces Scott Hogan.
Taylor Richards (Queens Park Rangers) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Juninho Bacuna (Birmingham City).
Kenneth Paal (Queens Park Rangers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Lukas Jutkiewicz (Birmingham City).
Attempt missed. Juninho Bacuna (Birmingham City) right footed shot from outside the box is too high. Assisted by Lukas Jutkiewicz with a headed pass.
Substitution, Birmingham City. George Hall replaces Tahith Chong.
Substitution, Birmingham City. Lukas Jutkiewicz replaces Troy Deeney.
Substitution, Queens Park Rangers. Taylor Richards replaces Sam Field.
Corner, Queens Park Rangers. Conceded by Juninho Bacuna.