McLeish hails matchwinner Zigic

Alex McLeish saluted Nikola Zigic after the forward’s third goal in three games earned Birmingham a last-gasp 1-0 victory over Stoke.

The Serbia international has taken time to adapt to the Premier League since his £6million summer move from Valencia, but followed up his strike against Manchester City and winner at West Ham with the only goal against Tony Pulis’ side.

Blues have now taken seven points from their last three games and climbed into 14th spot – three points clear of the bottom three.

McLeish said: "Ziggy has become a fixture in the team as he’s become more aggressive. We know he’s capable of finishing.

"If we get that type of delivery to him in the box, there’s not a lot of defenders who can live with a guy that size.

"When I saw the goal again, it was amazing to see him towering over John Carew, who is a giant himself.

"That is what the big fella is capable of. He was more aggressive in the second half than he was in the first, when I thought Stoke bullied us a little bit.

"But in the second we were much more enterprising."

McLeish was full of praise for his players in reviving their fortunes in the league and also clinching a place in the Carling Cup final against Arsenal in two weeks’ time.

He said: "I have to credit the players and squad for their reaction to being under a lot of pressure in the last few weeks.

"We were flirting with relegation and there’s still nobody safe yet. We also had a difficult semi-final and we’ve had a marvellous win.

"You have to credit these players for their mental toughness because a lot of people would have crumbled under that pressure."

Stoke boss Tony Pulis pointed the finger at goalkeeper Asmir Begovic for allowing David Bentley’s shot to slip from his grasp before Cameron Jerome crossed for Zigic’s winner.

He said: "I didn’t think we deserved to lose the game today. It’s always a tough game coming here, playing Birmingham, but that’s the way it goes at times.

"You have to play the time out. There were three minutes added on and I think they scored in the 93rd minute.

"Asmir really should have stopped it. It’s just bobbled out of his hands. I don’t think they’ve had a real shot or chance for 90 minutes.

"It had 0-0 written all over it. We had some very good opportunities which we didn’t take. I couldn’t see there being a winner."