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Birmingham City 2-2 Palace: Eagles denied by late Blues rally

CRYSTAL Palace were held to a 2-2 draw this afternoon at Birmingham City, having been two-nil up after 60 minutes.
Glenn Murray looked to have set the visitors on their way with two goals in either half, but Blues substitute Nikola Zigic reduced the deficit on 66 minutes before Papa Bouba Diop salvaged a point with a header with eight minutes remaining.
Palace had the first chance within the first 60 seconds when Yannick Bolasie saw his shot blocked towards the back post following Wilfried Zaha's low delivery, and following a deflection, the ball fell back to Zaha on the edge of the box but curled his first-time effort over.
And minutes later, the lively Bolasie nearly opened the scoring after a fantastic turn of pace.
A long ball pumped forward found the winger down the right and he played the ball in behind his marker, beat him for speed, turned another defender inside the box and forced a good low stop from Jack Butland in the Blues goal.
The home side rallied with some postive play down the left flank through Wade Elliot, but the Eagles had certainly started the better in front of a strong away following of 1,700.
Top goalscorer Murray then had his first real chance of the match when he collected a pass on the right side of the box, but his angled shot rolled across goal, before Zaha picked up the pieces and had an effort blocked.
Another fast break then saw Bolasie dance his way past his marker in the box before winning a corner as Ian Holloway's cranked up the pressure.
Birmingham had their first chance after 18 minutes when their top marksman Marlon King capitalised on a mistake from Palace 35-yards from goal before shooting just wide of Julian Speroni's post.
Just after the half-hour mark, Zaha fed the ball into Andre Moritz's path on the edge of the box, but the Brazilian's first touch was just a bit too heavy and Butland came racing out to smother.
The Blues then went close through Chris Burke, who curled an effort just past Speroni at full stretch from outside the box, while following a slip from Dikgacoi under pressure in the middle of the park, Lee Clark's side raced forward through Elliot.
And the winger threaded the ball into Peter Lovenkrands' path on the left side of the box, who looked for the far bottom corner but Speroni pulled off a stunning stop around the post.
From the following corner, Curtis Davies headed inches wide, but it was the Eagles who broke the deadlock minutes later.
Great work from Bolasie on the right side of box saw the winger deliver a superb low ball into Murray, who found space at the near post to dink the ball over Butland and give Holloways's men a deserved lead going into the break.
Palace had the first couple of chances shortly into the second period through a Bolasie shot and a Dikgacoi header over the bar from a corner, while following a fast breakaway involving Zaha, Moritz blazed over in front of goal after cutting in from the right.
However, they grabbed their second of the match on the hour when Zaha played the ball to the overlapping Parr on the left side of the box, and the full-back drove the ball low into the six-yard area for Murray to steer home.
Moments later, Lovenkrands looked to have won a penalty for the hosts but was instead booked for diving by the referee, but they did get a goal back soon after thanks to substitute Zigic.
The tall striker planted a firm header past Speroni unmarked from ten yards out with his first touch of the ball, and in typical fashion, it galvanised the home side into putting further pressure on the Palace defence.
The Blues continued to rally in search of an equaliser, but the Eagles held firm and sent on Danny Gabbidon for his debut to play the anchor role in midfield in place of Moritz.
And then Aaron Wilbraham came on for two-goal Murray, but his first action of the afternoon was to restart play as Birmingham grabbed the equaliser on 82 minutes.
A corner whipped in from the right found Bouba Diop unmarked and the powerful midfielder headed home to bring the score level.
The home fans started to taunt the away support, suggesting the Eagles weren't worthy of being top of the league, but they had clearly forgotten the lesson Palace had given them for an hour.
However, Dikgacoi should have given the visitors all three points when he directed a free header inches wide of the far post from a corner.
But they had to stay alert at the back in added-on time when Garvan cleared with his head inside the six-yard area to hold on for a point.

Palace: Speroni, Ward, Parr, Ramage, Delaney, Dikgacoi (c), Moritz (Gabbidon 77), Garvan, Bolasie, Zaha, Murray (Wilbraham 82).
Subs Not Used: Price, Moxey, O'Keefe, Easter, Appiah.
Attendance: 17,158 (1699 Palace supporters)

By Croydon Advertiser Sports Reporter Mark Ritson

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