Sunderland through to FA Cup q-finals

Birmingham 0 Sunderland 2 (after extra-time)

Birmingham 0 Sunderland 2 (after extra-time)

Sunderland are through to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup for the first time in 12 years after substitute Tommy Smith’s extra-time double earned them a shock victory over their Barclaycard Premiership opponents at St Andrews.

Smith broke the deadlock five minutes before the end of the first period of extra time – and it was no more than Mick McCarthy’s side deserved.

Then with five minutes remaining he made sure of victory for the Wearsiders, who will now have home advantage in their all-Nationwide Division One quarter-final against Sheffield United on March 7.

Birmingham manager Steve Bruce had been unhappy with his side’s performance in the first game 11 days ago when he claimed only four of his players had performed to their capabilities.

But City’s display in the return encounter was also woeful for long periods and hardly that of an outfit challenging for a European place via a lofty placing in the top flight.

They lacked a cutting edge after their chief creator David Dunn limped out of action with a hamstring problem after just eight minutes.

Sunderland also looked more hungry for success and they hustled Birmingham out of their stride for long periods.

But there was more to the performance of the Black Cats than sheer hard work, with John Oster a threat throughout in the centre of the park.

Bruce kept faith with the side which finished Sunday’s thrilling 2-2 draw at Aston Villafor the fifth-round replay.

Clinton Morrison was restored to the starting 11 in place of the injured Christophe Dugarry while record signing Dunn came in for Stephen Clemence.

Mick McCarthy made two alterations to the side which had been hammered 4-0 at Cardiff on Saturday.

Skipper Jason McAteer was absent with an ear infection and replaced by Paul Thirlwell while Joachim Bjorklund – sent off at Ninian Park – stood down in favour of Phil Babb.

Sunderland made a positive start and they created the first opening of the game after only two minutes.

A low cross from Kevin Kyle found strike partner Marcus Stewart in space eight yards out but he failed to make a clean contact with his left-footed shot and goalkeeper Maik Taylor was able to save comfortably.

Birmingham quickly responded and Morrison looked to have a 20-yard effort tipped over the crossbar by Sunderland keeper Mart Poom – but referee Mike Dean awarded a goal-kick.

The home side suffered a setback after nine minutes when Dunn went down clutching the back of his hamstring and he was stretchered off and replaced by Stephen Clemence.

It was another piece of misfortune for Dunn – who has only recently returned to action after a similar problem hoping to make a late claim for a place in the England Euro 2004 squad.

Morrison was looking dangerous and he turned past former Blues defender Gary Breen after accepting a pass from Tebily – but Poom was equal to his left-footed curling shot, saving to his right.

Morrison deflected wide a header back into the area from Tebily following a deep corner from Savage.

But Sunderland were working hard to restrict the chances of the home side and when they did counter-attack the Blues defence looked jittery at times.

In first half injury-time Birmingham created their best opening when Forssell played the ball into the path of Morrison – but Poom was able to block his low shot via his legs.

The home side tried to impose themselves on the visitors in the early stages of the second half but they still looked unconvincing.

Then, after 53 minutes, Stewart missed a golden opportunity to put Sunderland in front.

Oster sent over a right-wing centre which looked tailor-made for the former Ipswich striker – but he failed to make proper contact and his header glanced wide.

Sunderland were on top and Stephen Wright had a shot blocked at close range after cutting in from the right flank.

Oster made a break forward from midfield before slipping a pass into the path of Kyle but his shot, although containing plenty of power, sailed over the bar.

McCarthy made his first substitution after 62 minutes, bringing on Smith in place of Stewart.

And the visitors continued to look the more threatening with the impressive Oster sent a dangerous-looking ball into the path of Kyle – but the striker stopped running and Taylor was able to collect when the visitors had an overlap in their favour.

A shot from Clemence which flew well wide summed up the ineptitude of Birmingham’s second half performance and they were hanging on desperately to take the game into extra-time.

It needed a superb save from Taylor with seven minutes remaining to prevent the visitors from breaking the deadlock when Smith’s 20-yard free-kick took a wicked deflection.

But although Blues did take the game into extra-time – they were undone by Smith’s double and their bid to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 1984 came unstuck again.

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