not keen on shabby refereeing
By Chris Bascombe - Liverpool Echo
Xabi Alonso may be new to English football, but he's
already discovered as much as he needs to know about
referee Uriah Rennie.
The Spanish midfielder politely described the official's
performance as 'strange' following Liverpool's 1-0
defeat to Birmingham.
Rennie denied the home side a penalty before Darren
Anderton's winner and a series of decisions confounded
both sets of fans.
Alonso offered no excuse for the defeat, but observed
Rennie's performance with bewilderment.
"I saw the video afterwards and you could see the
defender moved his arm and touched the ball with his
hand," said Alonso, commenting on Muzzy Izzet's block of
Luis Garcia's shot.
"But the referee was strange. He was the referee in my
first game against Bolton and I know him already."
The 22-year-old says the club must now look ahead to
this week's Carling Cup clash with Middlesbrough to get
the loss of a 100 per cent home record out of the
"We had the chances and they hardly got into our box all
game. It was a shock for us to lose but now we have to
look forward to the next game," said Alonso..
"We felt down because you can't be happy when you've
lost at home. But the game's gone now.
"It was difficult after a big Champions League, but we
knew that situation beforehand so I don't think that's
"We have to get back quickly. We want to get into the
top four as soon as possible. There are still a lot of
games and we need to get some results.
"Hopefully there won't be many more hiccups and we don't
want to lose any more games at home."
Much of the post-match comment focused on Harry Kewell's
performance and today he received backing from a source
which may either comfort or horrify the Aussie's
Former Liverpool striker Emile Heskey, whose below par
performances earned him a summer transfer to Birmingham,
said: "I know all the expectations here and just what
the crowd expect.
"You just have to try and blank it out and play your
game. It's tough. I'm sure Harry can come through.
He's got the quality to do that.
"Harry will come through and the team will come
Cold winter is beckoning after a tepid display
By Len Capeling - Daily Post
Already the word has gone out: Liverpool cannot
defend corners or free-kicks. They shudder at the very
sight of them.
Get enough set-pieces against them, and, as Birmingham
City discovered, you'll eventually spread such confusion
in their ranks that a goal will result.
Liverpool's uncertain season is studded with
embarrassing examples of dizzy defenders trying to
equate zonal marking with anything approaching good
So when Birmingham decided it was time to steal the
points from an increasingly disjointed Liverpool, they
simply engineered a short corner between Muzzy Izzet and
the serially irksome Robbie Savage after a 60-yard
unhindered dash down the line by the impressive Julian
The Wales wind-up merchant measured the range then
lifted the ball to the far post where the unattended
Matthew Upson powered in a header that Chris Kirkland
parried towards Darren Anderton, who blew the ball home
from point-blank range.
Job done. Eagerly, the watching spies scribbled
furiously into their notebooks: Regulation short corner.
Long cross to back stick. No marking. One-nil. Suggest
we use this next week. It's a winner.
Pacing the technical area in the incessant rain, a damp,
depressed Rafael Benitez thrust his hands deeper into
his trouser pockets and prayed for the black cat
pancaked in the wheel arch of his car to be washed away.
But it stayed firmly lodged, at least for the duration
of this match, and Birmingham, who had only one other
attempt on goal - a typically-feeble nudge by the
returning Emile Heskey - escaped with a victory totally
But there it is.
No strikers, no Steven Gerrard, no passion in key
attacking areas, no steadiness in front of goal, and, as
a result, no hope of subduing a City side whose only
plus was Steve Bruce's work ethic.
Like the majority of other Premier-ship have-nots this
season's big idea - based on the Greek model - is five
men massed in midfield in front of a back four whose
main planks need hearts of oak.
That didn't prevent Liverpool creating three must-score
openings for Luis Garcia, Dietmar Hamann and Jamie
Carragher, but on this damp, dark afternoon the light of
further progress refused to shine.
At least Carragher had the excuse of a scrape off the
the line by Muzzy Izzet, who then blocked Garcia's
follow-up with an elbow, though that will be little
consolation to the defender or the fretting faithful.
One returning Liverpool luminary - back after being
exiled during the Houllier years - found himself
jokingly blamed for the fall of Fortress Anfield.
And that was before Anderton arrived on 77 minutes to
deliver the coup de grace.
By then, the fidgeting had begun as Liverpool, with Xabi
Alonso effectively shackled by Stephen Clemence, offered
fewer and fewer ideas.
Benitez busied himself bellowing instructions to stretch
the play, but the message failed to penetrate until the
For the first 45 minutes Liverpool showed so little
width that Birmingham suffered few alarms. And even when
the ball was swept to the flanks, Harry Kewell and John
Arne Riise promptly negated progress by stepping back
inside - into the traffic jams.
Kewell got the usual flaying on the post-match phone-ins
and it's hard to see him surviving in his present sullen
But he shouldn't take all the blame.
Too many Liverpool players were unwilling to make the
effort. That, at this moment, marks a Jose Mourinho side
from pretty well all the rest.
That's another concern for Benitez. How many of his
players will have to go before he gets total focus from
every member of his squad?
He could have done without the rash of injuries, of
course he could.
But Liverpool's problems go deeper than that, as Benitez
has now discovered. Too many of his so-called stars
enjoy the lifestyle without hungering to be winners -
again I paraphrase the obsessive Mourinho.
For that reason, as well as assorted afflictions and
some tactical foul-ups, this threatens to be a cold
winter for Liverpool's Spanish coach.
January may offer some relief - with at least a couple
of signings - but in the meantime he must cope with a
five-week spell that offers the derby as just one its
Duncan Ferguson wants his name down for that one. You
can be sure of it.
By Peter ORourke - Sky Sports
Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez bemoaned his side's
finishing as they suffered their first home defeat of
the season to Birmingham.
The home side were guilty of missing several chances and
were made to pay with Darren Anderton grabbing the
winner for Birmingham.
"We had clear chances, three or four, and sometimes in
football there is no justice, but it is ok there is a
long way to go in the season," said Benitez.
"I think we have been unlucky their goalkeeper played
very well and they played with a good offensive
mentality and the only thing that didn't happen was we
Benitez also felt Liverpool should have been awarded a
penalty when Muzzy Izzet appeared to clear Luis Garcia's
shot off the line with his hand.
"The players said it was handball, but if the referee
does not see it there is nothing you can do."
Benitez also played down suggestions that Liverpool
missed injured duo Djibril Cisse and Milan Baros.
"We have a good squad and we need to use all the
"They have fought today and you cannot say anything to
the players as they ran a lot and had many clear
Anderton strike give Liverpool the Blues
Eleven months of heartache for Birmingham finally
came to an end as Liverpool surrendered their 100%
Anfield record in the Premiership to a team whose last
away victory in the league was in December.
Birmingham boss Steve Bruce’s side had lost 10 and drawn
six of their previous 16 away-day outings, yet they
emerged with a win courtesy of Darren Anderton’s first
Blues goal following his move from Tottenham.
The simple 77th-minute strike from just a yard out also
ended a City goal drought that had lasted 380 minutes as
Liverpool looked a pale shadow of the team that had
scored a famous Champions League victory over Deportivo
La Coruna in midweek.
When you have set yourself such impeccably high
standards at home, as Liverpool have so far this season,
you come to expect the best on every successive
But this 90 minutes was arguably the worst this campaign
for the Reds, not simply because they failed to score,
but the performance was patchy and lacked any cohesion.
Liverpool should have taken full advantage of a City
side low on confidence and added to Bruce’s woes, but
they were not without their own problems, notably in
attack as Milan Baros joined Djibril Cisse on the injury
With Cisse out for the season with a broken leg, the
last thing manager Rafael Benitez needed was to have
Baros also on the sidelines, the Czech international
ruled out with a hamstring problem.
Benitez was forced to play Harry Kewell on his own up
front, with Florent Sinama-Pongolle providing support on
his first Premiership start this season.
When you are also lacking the drive and ingenuity of
Steven Gerrard from midfield – he is due to return in a
fortnight – then problems are bound to occur.
Liverpool, though, still had the chances in the opening
period to have piled on the agony for Birmingham, but
Maik Taylor and their own inept finishing proved their
Taylor initially came to the fore in the fifth minute,
the Northern Ireland goalkeeper at full stretch in
palming out of the swirling rain a rising drive
following a fast break from the home team.
That came after John Arne Riise had headed wide a deep
right-wing cross from Josemi and prior to another fine
save, this time clutching off the greasy surface a low
Xabi Alonso drive.
Then came the one and only opportunity for a returning
Emile Heskey, back on his old stamping ground for the
first time since his £6.25million summer move to City.
Damien Johnson and a fit-again Muzzy Izzet, back in the
side after five weeks out with a knee injury, were the
suppliers, but the latter’s cross into the near post was
stabbed wide and into the Kop.
After Cunningham had blocked a Sinama-Pongolle drive,
Liverpool looked in danger of conceding when Julian Gray
sprung Liverpool’s offside trap with a measured through
ball for Izzet.
But the ball skidded up off the turf and Izzet went on
to collide with Chris Kirkland, coming off worse as he
required treatment before continuing.
Then came the chances that should have set Liverpool
apart from the visitors, only for Luis Garcia to endure
the groans of the home faithful.
His first, in fairness, prompted another excellent stop
from Taylor as he held onto a fierce angled drive, but
he should have done so much better with the second on
With only Taylor to beat after a loose ball on the edge
of the area had ricocheted into his path, Garcia
proceeded to blaze over from 12 yards.
Following a scrappy, untidy end to the first half, it
was Garcia who was then supplier 10 minutes after the
restart just at a time when frustration was growing in
the home camp.
Garcia delivered an exquisite ball with the outside of
his right foot into the path of Dietmar Hamann to leave
the German clean through, and although Cunningham was
bearing down, his eventual flick was too close to Taylor
who made a clean save.
With urgency growing in the Liverpool ranks, Kewell then
headed over before contention arose in the 71st minute.
In a matter of seconds Izzet made goal-line clearances
from Jamie Carragher and Garcia.
Within six minutes, it was City who then made the
stunning breakthrough and against the run of play,
instigated by a short corner between Izzet and Robbie
Matthew Upson proceeded to meet Savage’s far-post cross
with a downward header into the six-yard box, and after
a slight deflection on the way, substitute Anderton – a
63rd-minute replacement for Stephen Clemence – tapped
simply home from a yard for what proved to be an