Birmingham head coach Aitor Karanka admitted Alen Halilovic has the talent to be at a bigger club after he scored the winner in their 2-1 comeback victory against QPR at St Andrew’s.
The 24-year-old former Barcelona and Standard Liege midfielder – a free transfer from AC Milan in November – curled home to earn Birmingham their first home win in 13 games after Kristian Pedersen cancelled out Charlie Austin’s opener.
Birmingham were victorious on home soil for the first time since they beat Huddersfield 2-1 on October 28 – 122 days prior.
Karanka was delighted but believes Halilovic should be performing on a bigger stage.
“We had a meeting last Thursday and I told him if he hadn’t played for his last clubs he couldn’t blame his managers, he had to blame himself,” he said.
“He’s a top player and if he’s not performing as well as he can and if he’s not in a better league or better club than us it’s his fault, not the managers.
“He told me I was right and he showed me today he can do it.”
Halilovic is only under contract until the end of the season and Karanka admits the midfielder must show more consistency if he is to be offered a longer-term deal.
“If he can keep the same level I would like to keep him here but he has to keep the same level with and without the ball,” he added.
A second win in three put Blues five points clear of the Sky Bet Championship relegation zone and Karanka believes it could be the start of a recovery.
“Today can be a turning point because we won from coming from behind, we won at home and we’ve had a lot of problems here since October, not winning a game.”
QPR manager Mark Warburton blamed the poor state of the pitch in part for the loss.
“I felt the pitch was really poor. It was tough for both teams, hence you didn’t see a nice game of football,” said Warburton.
“You saw balls being lumped forward because it was so hard for players to make good decisions.
“The pitch is dry, rutted and it’s a really difficult playing surface for good players. For both teams it was very challenging.
“But we had the one bit of quality in the first half when after a great ball in, Charlie put in a great finish.
“We were in control then and what we had to do was do the ugly side in the second half better than we did.
“Stefan Johansen had a huge chance to make it 2-0. That was the deciding moment.
“But he looked down at the pitch, it bobbled over when he would finish those nine times out of 10.
“Unfortunately we didn’t defend the second phase very well (for the equaliser) and we let ourselves down in the last five minutes.”
Regarding the state of the pitch, Karanka said: “If the pitch would have been better since the start of the season we would have played a lot better and won a lot more games.”
Unmarked Austin put QPR ahead in the 44th minute when he volleyed home Todd Kane’s right-wing cross from four yards.
Johansen missed a one on one and Macauley Bonne wasted two chances before Pedersen glanced home Roberts’s cross in the 82nd minute.
Halilovic curled home a tremendous shot from 20 yards three minutes later.
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