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Lukas Jutkiewicz smashed home a stoppage-time winner against Leeds as Birmingham celebrated the life of Trevor Francis and the start a new era in front of NFL great Tom Brady.
There has been precious little to cheer about since the Blues’ relegation from the top flight 12 years ago, but the recent takeover led by American businessman Tom Wagner has finally brought hope back to the club.
Brady went onto join as minority owner nine days ago and the former quarterback made his first trip to a rocking St Andrew’s on Saturday as Birmingham secured a 1-0 win.
Substitute Jutkiewicz fired home from the penalty spot at the death in a dramatic end to a drab encounter on an emotional day in the second city.
Birmingham paid a touching tribute to their greatest ever player before-kick-off, with Jasper Carrott leading the tributes to Francis following his death last month.
The comedian said Francis was “a hero, a role model and a symbol of a time when there was real hope in this stadium” – a feeling of hope he felt was now back at St Andrew’s.
The positive feeling around the club brought the biggest crowd since February 2020 but the occasion did not live up to the hype in a poor first half devoid of opportunities.
Both sides improved after the break and pushed hard for a late winner, which went Birmingham’s way after Daniel James brought down Ethan Laird in the box.
Illan Meslier got a foot on Jutkiewicz’s thumping penalty but could not stop it finding the back of the net as seven-time Super Bowl champion Brady celebrated a successful first visit.
The performance, as much as a result, will alarm Daniel Farke’s Leeds – who were without wantaway Willy Gnonto and fellow forward Luis Sinisterra at St Andrew’s.
Neither team did anything of note in a first half that appeared to be impacted by the emotional start to proceedings.
The fact there was only one minute of added time at the end of the opening period highlighted just how uneventful it had been.
The second half began in brighter fashion and City’s Keshi Anderson met a Siriki Dembele cutback with a shot that deflected narrowly wide.
Leeds responded with a James cross-shot that forced John Ruddy into action, before Georginio Rutter saw a fierce drive blocked by Krystian Bielik moments after coming on.
John Eustace’s hosts had a huge chance in the 80th minute but Kevin Long powered a free header from six yards just off target.
Bacuna saw a driven effort held before Birmingham hearts were in mouths as Sam Byram glanced an effort across the face of goal in front of the 2,213 away fans.
But City were pushing hardest for the win and were gifted a chance by James’ late error.
The former Manchester United flyer brought down Laird as he attempted to stop the lively right-back meeting a diagonal ball, with referee Tim Robinson pointing to the spot.
Newly-introduced Jutkiewicz leathered home the penalty and chants of “USA, USA, USA” filled the air as Birmingham saw out victory.
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