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Birmingham Beats West Ham 3-1 to Advance to Carling Cup Final

Birmingham rallied to beat West Ham 3-1 after extra time to advance to the final of English soccer’s Carling Cup against Arsenal.

Craig Gardner’s goal in extra time last night gave Birmingham a 4-3 win over the two-game semifinal series. The Blues will meet Arsenal in the final of England’s second-tier cup competition Feb. 27 at Wembley Stadium in London.

“It’s a one-off match and anything can happen,” Birmingham goalkeeper Ben Foster told Sky Sports. “That’s the mentality we have to go there with.”

It will be Birmingham’s first appearance in the final since 2001, when it lost to Liverpool. The only major trophy the Blues have won was in the same competition in 1963. Arsenal, a 13-time English league champion, has won the League Cup twice, in 1987 and 1993. Birmingham last beat Arsenal in May 2005, to end a 22-year winless streak against the London team.

Carlton Cole scored in the first half to give West Ham, which won the opening game 2-1, a two-goal advantage in the series. Second-half scores from Lee Bowyer and Roger Johnson drew Birmingham even before Gardner won it four minutes into the 30-minute extra session.

“I was saying to my mates before the game I was going to get the winner,” Gardner told Sky Sports. “To do it was fantastic.”

Cole opened the scoring in the 31st minute by putting a shot from about 35 yards (32 meters) past Foster. West Ham’s Zavon Hines then hit the post in the 38th minute.

Bowyer’s Tying Goal

Gardner struck a post early in the second half before Bowyer tied the game in the 59th minute. West Ham goalkeeper Robert Green then made one-handed saves against Barry Ferguson and Cameron Jerome before Johnson scored with a header in the 79th minute to tie the series 3-3.

Gardner hit a post again in stoppage time before firing a shot that Green was unable to stop in the extra period.

Arsenal, which beat Ipswich in its semifinal two days ago, is second in the Premier League and Birmingham is 16th out of 20 teams.

In the Premier League, Liverpool beat Fulham 1-0 on an own goal from John Pantsil. The victory was the second straight for the Reds and lifts them to seventh place, their highest position in the standings this season.

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