COVENTRY City suffered a cruel FA Cup exit on penalties to Championship Birmingham City – after coming within seconds of winning a pulsating replay at St Andrew’s and twice being pegged back by late equalisers.
With an fifth round tie at Premier League Leicester City the prize, the fascinating tie ebbed and flowed for 120 minutes, pitching the higher division side’s direct physicality against Mark Robins’ side’s exceptional passing game.
The Sky Blues, having missed the chance to win the first ‘home’ tie at St Andrew’s in the last minutes when Callum O’Hare had scuffed a glaring open goal, again failed to take guilt-edged chances to double their 1-0 lead – notably two from goalscorer Max Biamou.
Blues equalised in additional time, a quick break and cross from the right into the box finding Harlee Dean to head past Marosi.
It had looked like Amadou Bakayoko’s 50th minute finish from a Westbrooke pass, that hit keeper Camp before slowly looping in, would settle the tie.
Coventry took the lead again in extra time with a brilliantly worked Biamou first-time finish in the box after a perfect O’Hare pass, with just six minutes to go.
The bodyblow of another very late equaliser came on 119 minutes with a fluke goal from Bela who had intended a cross from the right, but it curled high over Marosi and went in off the post.
The biggest controversy of the night came when penalties were taken in front of a closed stand instead of the away end holding 4,000 away Sky Blues supporters, and Birmingham fans ran to seats behind the goal which the stewards did nothing to stop.
After Godden sent the keeper the wrong way with Coventry’s first penalty, substitute Walsh blasted down the middle for keeper Camp to save with his foot, and he also got a hand on Allen’s strike, Birmingham winning the spot-kicks 4-1 with the decisive penalty from skipper Dean.
Coventry City had started the game with a 5-3-2 formation, switching to a system of two up front, which had worked well after substitutions in the first game. Bakayoko made a rare start alongside Biamou with Godden on the bench.
Coventry City were in total control for the first 12 minutes – passing through the lines of Birmingham’s more direct 4-3-3 and Bakayoko failing to take a fifth-minute shot when put through – until a six-minute stoppage for injured midfielder McEachran who was stretchered off.
From then, Birmingham came into the game with Montero looking their main threat, as in the first game. He had an overhead kick cleared off the line by Dom Hyam on 22 minutes, On 39 minutes, he skinned Pask with a twisting run into the box and saw his shot well saved by Marosi.
Coventry, facing fixture congestion, had made six changes with Pask coming in for the injured Rose in a solid back three, and Shipley was forced deeper alongside sitting midfielder Liam Kelly, with the usually dominant Liam Walsh on the bench.
On 57 minutes, Biamou was picked out alone in the box by a vicious curling cross by powerful marauding right wing-back and City’s man-of-the-match, Fankaty Dabo. But Biamou could not quite control his first-time shot and blasted over the bar.
Jamie Allen and O’Hare replaced Shipley and Westbrooke on 71 minutes to add fresh attacking impetus, with their impressive quick passing and direct running.
Within seconds, Allen’s excellent run and pass put through Biamou for another one-on-one with the keeper, and he had his head in his hands after misfiring wide of the near post.
Birmingham, with three up front, had good spells throughout what was an even game and had slightly more attempts on goal – mainly headers – without creating the clear-cut chances Coventry had.
The Blues, before an after they brought on the battering ram of Jutkiewicz on 69 minutes, appeared to rely heavily on set-pieces, and extremely long throws and crosses into the strikers.
Robins said of his promotion-chasing League One side: “I’m proud of the players, I thought they were brilliant. They’ve come out on the wrong side of a result and we had three good chances to put the game to bed in normal time that we didn’t take which means you always run the risk.
“They had two crosses, they pushed Harlee Dean up front to try and get a goal, which they did, right at the death, in normal time, and then to concede with 30 seconds left on the clock in extra-time was poor from us.
“It was two crosses that we allowed to come into the box, and they’ve ended up going in which is tough to take, but that’s football and we have to learn our lessons from today.
“We scored two brilliant goals which were really good and well worked goals, the second one was outstanding. But we have to move on.
“We’re out of the cup and, as disappointing as that is, we’ve got 17 games to turn it into a really exciting end to the season.”