Zola’s off the mark with Blues
GIANFRANCO Zola admitted to being able to breathe a sigh of relief after claiming his first point as Birmingham boss.
Zola’s Blues rescued a draw after coming from 2-0 down away at ten-man Barnsley.
Tom Bradshaw and Sam Winnall put the hosts ahead but Jacques Maghoma pulled one back before the break.
The turning point arrived shortly after the re-start when Marc Roberts was sent off and conceded a penalty which Lukas Jutkiewicz scored to seal the point.
“I’m pleased to get the first point and it is a bit of a relief,” beamed the Italian, who had lost his opening two games in charge.
“It was an encouraging display. I was a little worried at 2-0 and their first goal came as a surprise.
“The second was a set-piece which is something we need to work on.
“But the reaction was good and the goal from Maghoma was very important for us.”
Zola also reserved special praise for striker Che Adams, who won the penalty which led to the equaliser.
He added: “It was a penalty to be fair as Che was going to the goal and the red card was correct.
“Che was game-changing out there. As soon as I came to the club, I knew he was a player with big potential.”
Prior to the game, both sides took part in a minute’s applause in memory of Barnsley legend Norman Rimmington, who died on December 29 aged 93 after serving the club for most of his life.
The opening quarter of the game was a non-event but it soon sprung into life when Bradshaw netted his fourth of the term after an excellent surge forward by Marley Watkins.
Winnall then made it 2-0 four minutes later when he nodded in his 11th of the season just a few yards out following a Conor Hourihane corner.
Against the run of play the Blues pulled a goal back through Maghoma on 33 minutes.
Adams pestered Roberts into losing possession and he threaded the ball through to Maghoma who comfortably nestled the ball past Adam Davies.
Zola made two changes at the break and one of them, Jutkiewicz, played a huge role in restoring parity.
He picked out Adams in the box only for Roberts to clumsily bundle him over inside the penalty area.
And, after being at fault for Birmingham’s first goal, Roberts’ day got worse when he was shown a straight red card and a penalty was awarded.
Super sub Jutkiewicz duly stepped up and smashed the ball straight down the middle of the goal to make it 2-2.
Barnsley boss Paul Heckingbottom said: “We gave them a goal and a way back into it but saying that, I was pleased with lots of things.
“Our energy off the ball was good and we pressed them.
“But I didn’t think we were good enough with the ball and missed opportunities to dominate at times.
“The sending-off changed things but we were terrific with ten men and arguably created the better chances.
“The red card was a red card it’s the rule.
“The rule is if it’s not a genuine attempt to win the ball, it’s going to be a red card and we have to accept that.”
SPOT ON: Lukas Jutkiewicz scores Birmingham’s equalising goal from to snatch a point