Birmingham City edged a 1-0 win over the ailing Barnsley on Tuesday night. A second-half goal from loanee Scott Hogan was enough to split the two sides, lifting the visiting Blue to six league matches without a loss.
Here are five things we learned from it:
Jude Bellingham truly is a wonderkid
“The last thing you want is Scott Hogan in the box with the ball.
“Jude made that happen today. That’s how good he is,” chimed City head-coach Pep Clotet in the post-match press conference, who was full of praise for the 16-year-old.
Bellingham put in a sublime performance all-round the pitch. As well as tracking back to lend much-needed aid to the Blues’ defence, he put in a stellar performance in front of net.
His ball movement; sensational; his footwork; magical. Bellingham was a treat to watch for the neutral. It was clear why the Stourbridge-born teen attracted interest from global powerhouses in the January transfer window.
Birmingham’s counter-attack is devastating
Although the only goal in this Championship bout was born from a defensive error, the visitors’ pace worked wonders with the play-style they adopted to battle the elements. The unpredictable wind made organised football increasingly difficult, and a sodden pitch rendered any attempts at stroking the ball across the carpet impossible.
Long, thumped balls over the heads of Barnsley’s slack defence was the order of the day for the Blues, but, considering the blistering speed of their forwards, it proved to be a minor sacrifice from the usual.
They do not have to be won pretty
As the previous segment touched on, Birmingham City’s playmaking was not easy on the eye by any means, but it did work. They posed a great threat to Brad Collins’ goal throughout the tie, even though the shots-on-target statistic may not reflect it.
It was a scrappy game – not helped by the adverse weather conditions – and it developed into a real war of attrition. The first team to crack under the end-to-end attacking pressure would no doubt lose the game, which proved to be the case at Oakwell.
Barnsley’s Mads Anderson was caught napping by the ever-sprightly Bellingham, whose cross assisted Scott Hogan’s winning goal.
Reds boss Gerhard Struber was not enamoured by the ideas that the visiting side brought to the table.
The Austrian said: “Birmingham only played long balls.
“They have no style on the ball.”
Scott Hogan is a dangerous man
To the opposition, at least.
Clotet said: “[I] had a lot of faith in Scott since his time at Brentford.
“It is something we were missing; he always stretches the defence with his movement and can get in behind.”
Hogan looked a class above the Barnsley defenders all game. His performance was rounded off with a delightful strike to secure the maximum points for the Blues.
After Bellingham stole possession on the flanks, the ball found Hogan in the box, around 12 yards out. The Irishman executed a slick turn to evade the defence and launched a left-footed curler into the top corner, right in front of the 1450-strong travelling contingent.
Hogan, who is on loan from bitter rivals Aston Villa, joined City in January 2020. Since his arrival at St Andrew’s, he has netted three goals in three games.
Barnsley are not looking strong for survival
The fans are not happy with the situation their club finds itself in. They sit rock-bottom of the Championship, nine points from safety. Barnsley have earned just a single point in the last five matches, and have conceded in each of their last 16 home matches.
The Reds also find themselves out of contention for any domestic cup competition; the most recent exit being an FA Cup elimination at the hands of League One Portsmouth.
Their possession was wasteful, despite boasting 64% of the ball. There were 38 dangerous attacks from Barnsley, but nothing could be converted. A sense of desperation surrounded their advances – several potential chances were botched by ambitious strikes from distance; many of which were well, well wide.