Heroic Taylor fails to keep Gunners at bay

Arsenal 1 Birmingham 0

Bruce had seen Taylor defy the Gunners with a first-half penalty stop from Robert Pires just two minutes after Blues captain Kenny Cunningham had been sent off for a foul on Freddie Ljungberg.

Not content with that, Taylor made seven outstanding saves - most from Arsenal's Spanish striker Jose Antonio Reyes - before he was cruelly undermined by Stephen Clemence's deflection on Robin van Persie's weak shot for the only goal of the game.

"Seven saves was it?" asked Bruce.

"I made it three or four were world-class, but it all got spoiled in the end. The goalkeeper has produced a wonderful performance only to be beaten by a goal like that.

"I thought that up to half-an-hour we were fractionally the better side. That changed in the second half - it was just the effect of the sending-off."

Bruce had no complaints with the decision to dismiss Cunningham.

"We all know that the referee was right, but I'm sure that really he just wanted to produce a yellow card. Under the directives he is given he is not allowed to - and that's the problem we have," he said.

"We take honesty to the extreme in the English Premiership. The referee is watched by two assessors, and he knows he will do himself no favours by using a bit of common sense.

"Nobody wants to see games ruined by players being sent off (on technicalities). Nobody wants to see it. The spectacle is ruined for the fans."

Down to 10 men, Birmingham were in big trouble - but as long as Taylor continued in such wonderful form, they appeared to have a chance of holding on.

"We just had to try to last out for an hour, and our goalkeeper had a wonderful game," said Bruce.

"But there was no stopping that scrappy goal. It took a little deflection and sat up in front of him.

"We have come here today with eight players unavailable and an 18-year-old and a 16-year-old on the bench. It is bad enough facing Arsenal with 11 top players."

Even Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger agreed it was a lucky winner.

"I'll take a scrappy goal like that if it wins the game. To be honest, I could not see any other kind of goal beating Taylor," he said of the Northern Ireland goalkeeper, performing in the presence of England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson.

"He deserves a lot of credit. He was outstanding, and I'm sure Sven is glad he's not playing for Austria or Poland (in World Cup qualifiers) next week."

Wenger also concurred with Cunningham's red card.

"I didn't want to see a player sent off from the other side - even though I thought the decision was correct. I would have preferred 11 against 11 for the whole 90 minutes. You know more about your side when you win and it is like that."

The Gunners boss was not especially impressed with his team.

"We were not at our best, and (Emile) Heskey had a chance in the first few minutes - but we were slowly getting more lively by the time Cunningham was sent off," he said.

"After that it was a case of taking our chances or being patient ... and unfortunately we had to take the second solution.

"But it is always difficult coming back from Europe. We were a bit tired, and it is hard to keep going.

"Even so, I can understand Birmingham feeling hard done by, conceding a goal like that."

Opta Stat: Arsenal have been awarded three penalties in four home Premiership games this term.

Birmingham have had a player sent off in their last three league games.

Arsenal: J Lehmann, B Lauren, K Toure, S Campbell, A Cole, A Hleb (61 D Bergkamp), F Fabregas, G Silva, R Pires (70 R Van Persie), F Ljungberg (87 M Flamini), J Reyes

Birmingham: M Taylor, O Tebily, K Cunningham, M Upson, J Clapham (87 M Forssell), J Pennant, D Johnson, S Clemence, J Gray, W Pandiani (55 S Lazaridis), E Heskey

Referee: C Foy.

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