Wayne Rooney endured a car crash home debut as Birmingham City were beaten comfortably by Championship rivals Hull City on Wednesday night. Blues tried to play positively with a strong press and high line but their frailties were laid bare as the Tigers took advantage of a lacklustre display. Boos rang around St Andrew’s Stadium both at the interval and at full-time as supporters voiced their disapproval at the change of system and lack of authority. It was a night to remember for 16-year-old Romelle Donovan as the midfielder was handed a senior debut but for everyone else associated with Birmingham, it was one to forget as soon as possible.
Blues made a strong start as they got on the front foot right away and caused problems, particularly on the right flank. Oliver Burke found plenty of joy sprinting down the wing and crossing deep, with Siriki Dembele latching on to a couple but unable to capitalise. It was Liam Rosenior’s side that took the lead, though, and it was completely avoidable as Emmanuel Longelo made a horrendous error in the 13th minute. The ball fell to the left-back after a goal-kick and he misjudged the bounce, completely mis-hitting his attempted pass back to John Ruddy. Hull striker Liam Delap said thank you very much as he reacted brilliantly to round Ruddy before passing into an open net for 1-0.
The Tigers gained great confidence from their goal and pressed high to create some big opportunities in an effort to make it two. Rooney’s desire to push both full-backs high up the field left Blues exposed at the back and it was nearly very costly. Birmingham captain Dion Sanderson gave the ball away in midfield and it was fired straight into the path of Hull forward Scott Twine, just outside the area. The attacking midfielder skipped beyond both Kevin Long and Ruddy for an open goal but tripped over his own leg, giving Blues an opportunity to clear away. It really should’ve been 2-0.
Birmingham occasionally caused trouble going forward in the first period, especially with the audacious high press. There were a couple of instances when Hull goalkeeper Ryan Allsop was under pressure to clear away but the indecisiveness from Birmingham’s attackers meant nothing came from these moments. Much of the threat came down the wings but only the occasional cross came off. Bacuna had Blues’ biggest chance of the first half as Burke cut the ball back to the midfielder just outside the six-yard box. Much to Rooney’s dismay, however, the volleyed effort sailed narrowly over the crossbar. Dembele also had an opening as he forced Allsop into a save from distance.
Hull pushed for a second before the break and nearly got it, twice. Former Aston Villa man Jaden Philogene cut in from the left, beating both Cody Drameh and Sanderson before firing hard and low, just inches wide of the far post. Ex-Fulham midfielder Jean Michael Seri then reacted quickest to a loose touch in the penalty area but had a similar fate as the ball dribbled merely inches away from the right woodwork. A minority of the St Andrew’s faithful sounded their disappointment at the poor first 45 minutes, booing as Rooney’s men headed down the tunnel for a half-time talking-to.
Blues came out firing for the second half, on the front foot just as they were at the very beginning of the first. Krystian Bielik and Dembele both had close-range shots blocked, Bacuna was given the opportunity to swing in three or four corners, and the high press from Jay Stansfield and Koji Miyoshi continued to trouble Allsop. Once five or 10 minutes had passed, however, as did Birmingham’s threat. Hull regained composure, were able to halt the output of Rooney’s side and even managed to tot up a few half-chances, stinging Ruddy’s gloves on more than one occasion.
As Birmingham’s frustration grew, possession was often given away cheaply and it led to the Tigers breaking forward to earn a two-goal lead. Philogene, receiving the ball on the left, toyed with Drameh, ran past Jordan James with ease and then fired with power and drive to find the bottom right-hand corner. Ruddy had no chance as he was sent on his way to collect the ball from the back of his net. The away end was sent into raptures. The rest of St Andrew’s? Well, you could hear a pin drop.
There was little-to-no threat of Blues coming back into the game as the visitors were well drilled, with Rosenior guiding his men. Rooney, meanwhile, took quite the battering on the touchline as first the away support gave him grief but then, rather incredibly, as did the home. It’s worth stressing that it was only a minority, but some fans got to their feet and shouted for Rooney to be given his marching orders. Blimey. Here are our Birmingham player ratings from tough home debut for the new manager.
Attendance: 19,530; away: 694.