Zamora curls Cottagers to victory

Watching England boss Fabio Capello had left Craven Cottage before

Zamora struck a magnificent free-kick in the 90th minute to claim

his 15th goal in 32 starts, provoking chants of “Bobby for England”

– but the Italian will have been impressed by his display. Momentum

has gathered behind calls for Zamora to be selected by England and

Sunday’s strike will have improved his chances. The Blues raced

ahead in the third minute thanks to an inexplicable own goal from

Chris Baird who, despite being under little pressure, headed home a

Lee Bowyer cross. It was a terrible blunder that will surely cause

some sleepless nights but it was also harsh on Baird, who otherwise

performed well despite being played out of position at right-back.

Fulham controlled much of the match but had to wait until the hour

mark for their equaliser when Damien Duff powered home his ninth

goal of the season. Riled by two clumsy tackles moments earlier,

the Republic of Ireland winger took revenge by dashing infield,

combining with Zoltan Gera before driving home from the edge of the

area. With both clubs imbedded in mid-table and closing in on the

critical 40-point mark, Sunday’s contest was about little more than

having a say in who would get there first. It looked like

Birmingham would have that honour when Baird handed them the lead

in the third minute with an embarrassing own goal. Bowyer sent in a

cross to the far post where Baird directed an unstoppable header

past Schwarzer into his own net. The Northern Ireland defender

tried making amends by setting up a good chance for Simon Davies

only for keeper Joe Hart to come to Birmingham’s rescue. Gera

almost connected with a hanging cross from Duff and was then

blocked by Stephen Carr as Fulham pressed for an equaliser. Danny

Murphy expertly weaved his way into the area but was brought to an

abrupt stop by Scott Dann and shortly after Davies nodded a superb

cross from Gera straight at Hart. Birmingham were content to hit

Fulham on the counter, a tactic that was yielding some success.

Sebastian Larsson had a shot blocked by Dickson Etuhu but more

action was taking place at the other end with Zamora hurling

himself at two crosses. Davies failed to connect cleanly with a

clever pass from Murphy, giving Hart time to react. Zamora was

applauded for a dazzling piece of skill that saw him expertly

control the ball, which he then slipped between his legs before

pirouetting away from Bowyer. The former West Ham marksman fired a

well-struck shot from long range but it just lacked the power to

really trouble Hart. Cameron Jerome scuffed a half-chance straight

to Schwarzer and in the 57th minute Birmingham were lucky to escape

a penalty after Dann clearly handled the ball. But the equaliser

eventually arrived in the 60th minute with Duff driving home a

brilliant goal that came just moments after he had been hacked down

twice by clumsy challenges. He weaved his way infield and linked

with Gera before taking the return pass and pulling the trigger on

a shot that struck the left post and cannoned in. Only the

fingertips of Schwarzer prevented Birmingham from retaking the lead

as the Fulham keeper tipped a blistering shot from James McFadden

onto the underside of the crossbar with the ball then bouncing down

and out. The game was growing increasingly ragged with Zamora

breaking free but taking the wrong option – before completing a

dramatic finale. Gera was felled by an outrageous bodycheck from

Carr and Zamora thumped home the free-kick in the 90th minute to

clinch victory.