Birmingham City 1 Manchester City 2
Things aren't going to plan for Birmingham City boss Steve Bruce at the moment.
A week after an insipid goalless draw at Fulham when his team's lack of creativity upfront was exposed, it was defensive frailties that proved to be Blues' undoing against Manchester City.
In a poor display, the home side lacked cohesion, were lightweight in midfield and pedestrian at the back. Unfortunately they faced a well-drilled, physical side with two strikers who are not noted for their lack of pace.
Andrew Cole and former Aston Villa forward Darius Vassell's partnership may only be in its infancy, but they already have an understanding that will cause problems for better sides than Blues.
More worrying for Bruce was the indiscipline of his side in allowing City time and space to control the game. 'Reckless abandon' is not a phrase normally associated with Blues, but on Saturday they attacked without a care in the world.
Mario Melchiot was supposed to be playing rightback, but was too often caught out of position exposing centre- backs Kenny Cunningham and Matthew Upson to Cole and Vassell. On the other side Julian Gray's defending was almost non-existent, meaning Jamie Clapham was outnumbered more often than not.
The lack of cover on either wing was perfectly highlighted by City's winning goal two minutes into the second half.
A long ball down the right found Trevor Sinclair unmarked, and the winger had the time and space to pick out Cole, all alone, at the far post. The striker fired the ball first time back past goalkeeper Maik Taylor.
From then on City never looked like losing. Taylor was forced to make a fine save at his near post after Cole had again found himself free in the box, and Blues were in danger of being overrun.
The home side did have a chance to pull level 20 minutes from time. Mikael Forssell was bundled over on the edge of the box, and while City half-heartedly appealed for a penalty the ball broke to Gray whose first-time shot was well saved by David James.
The indiscipline of the latter stages was in stark contrast to the beginning where for half an hour Blues were in fine form.
The home side began the game at a gallop with Jermaine Pennant and Gray flying down the wings, Nicky Butt driving from midfield and Forssell and Walter Pandiani giving the visitors' defence a torrid time.
It took just seven minutes for Blues to make their dominance count. Gray got free down the left and whipped in a ball which Pandiani headed back into the box and Butt crashed the ball past James.
The home side should have doubled their lead moments later. Forssell produced a breathtaking piece of skill to leave Richard Dunne stranded, and from his cut back Pennant could only curl the ball wide.
Butt was then denied a penalty after being bundled over in the box by Stephen Jordan, and was booked for the nature of his protest by referee Mark Clattenburg.
And then, against the run of play, City equalised. Vassell and Cole combined to slice open the Blues defence and as Vassell and Taylor both went for the ball it broke for Joey Barton who tapped it in from two yards out.
After Barton's equaliser things began to slowly unravel for Blues. They charged forward leaving huge holes at the back and only a combination of scrambling defence and good goalkeeping sent them into the break on level terms.
The second half was no different and defeat was Birmingham's first at home since January, when a certain Andrew Cole scored in a 2-1 win for Fulham.
There were some positives to come out of the game, not least from the strikers Forssell and Pandiani.
Neither is fully fit and yet both caused City enough problems to suggest that when Bruce's side click they will be a match for most teams.
Pennant, too, is on the verge of coming good. He showed flashes of the ability that first attracted the attentions of Arsenal, but against City it was sporadic and mostly failed to produce anything of note.
Joy then for Stuart Pearce who was glowing in his praise for his strikers.
"I thought the two boys up front, within a fantastic team effort, were sensational," beamed Pearce. "Cole took his goal well and Vassell was a handful all day."
For his part Bruce could only reflect on his side's indiscipline and inability to deal with the threat posed by Cole and Vassell.
"I was worried about us defensively all afternoon," said Bruce.
"Whether it was narrowness or people not doing there jobs properly, defensively the whole team needed to be better.
"There were too many times when we committed hari-kari and got too many people forward, and kept leaving Vassell and Cole twofortwo at the back."
So in two games Blues have struggled at both ends of the field. It would be pessimistic in the extreme not to think that they will turn it around, but they have to get it right soon.
Tomorrow they face a Middlesbrough side still seeking their first goal of the new season and in Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink and Mark Viduka the Teessiders have two strikers with similar attributes to Cole and Vassell. Another indisciplined performance could see Blues on the wrong end of a hammering.