Goals in either half from Lloyd Dyer and Lucas Akins sealed a double for Albion over the Blues, with home fans chanting “we want Zola out” towards the end of the match as Birmingham slumped to within three points of the Sky Bet Championship relegation zone with three games left.
The 50-year-old Italian, who took the reins in December following the controversial sacking of Gary Rowett, faced the media after the match to express his sorrow that he could not fulfil the club’s expectations.
“I sacked myself,” said Zola, who oversaw just two wins in 22 league games. “I decided to give in my resignation. I am sorry because I came to Birmingham with huge expectations. Unfortunately the results have not been good and I take full responsibility.
“It is not that I like quitting, but Birmingham deserves better. If I feel I cannot help the players, why stay? If I cannot help the team, it is better I leave and let someone else do that. I feel very bad and very sorry. We worked with a lot of meaning, but unfortunately it didn’t produce the results. It is all very disappointing.” In a statement Birmingham said: “The futures of Gianfranco’s backroom team – Pierluigi Casiraghi, Gabriele Cioffi, Kevin Hitchcock, Andrea Caronti and Sebastiano Porcu – will be decided in due course,” and added: “The club will seek to appoint a new manager within the next few days.”
Elsewhere, Huddersfield missed the chance to put pressure on Newcastle United after they were held to a 1-1 draw at Derby County. Jacob Butterfield levelled with two minutes to go to break the spirited Huddersfield defence after Collin Quaner had given them the lead in the ninth minute. The win leaves David Wagner’s side seven points behind Newcastle with a game in hand and five points inside the play-off places.
Rafael Benítez’s team had earlier slipped to seven points behind Brighton as they took their winless run to three matches with a 3-1 reverse at Ipswich Town. Freddie Sears put the hosts ahead just before half-time, but when Daryl Murphy levelled in the second half they had a chance to change their fortunes. Instead they conceded twice more, with David McGoldrick and Emyr Huws the scorers.
In the play-off picture, wins for Reading, Sheffield Wednesday and Fulham edged Leeds United out of the top six. Garry Monk’s team lost 1-0 at home against Wolverhampton Wanderers to slip out of the top six for the first time since November.
At the other end, Blackburn Rovers salvaged a draw from Bristol City’s trip to Ewood Park, Sam Gallagher cancelling out Tammy Abraham’s effort, but they remain third bottom and in trouble. Norwich City defeated Preston North End 3-1 at Deepdale, but neither side can now hope to crack the play-offs.
Graham Dorrans and Josh Murphy gave the Canaries a first-half cushion before Tommy Spurr and James Maddison traded strikes. Aron Gunnarsson gave Cardiff City a 1-0 win against the struggling Nottingham Forest and Brentford drew 1-1 at Barnsley as Florian Jozefzoon and Marley Watkins scored.
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