After The Match 


Liverpool-Birmingham 0-1 (0-0)          Sat Nov 6.             Premier League
Goals: Anderton (76)
Team: Kirkland, Josemi, Hyypia, Carragher, Traore, Riise, Alonso, Hamann, Kewell, Garcia, Pongolle
Subs: Finnan (Pongolle 65), Mellor (Riise 72), Biscan (Hamann 85)
Not used: Dudek, Diao
Yellow: Josemi (44), Garcia (61), Hamann (72)        Johnson (74)
Red: None
Referee: U Rennie
Attendance: 42,669

                                              MATCH-REPORTS & RESULTS 
Shots on target: 8-1
Shots off target: 9-5
Fouls conceded: 19-17
Corners: 4-5
Yellow: 3-1





"...there is a
long way to go
in the season..."

                 Rafael Benitez

0811: Alonso not keen on shabby refereeing
0811: Cold winter is beckoning after a tepid display
0611: Benitez bemoans missed chances
0611: Anderton strike give Liverpool the Blues


Alonso 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 system.

"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 an issue.

"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 fanbase.

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 through."

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 sense.

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 Gray.

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 undeserved.

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 half-time howl.

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 mood.

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 demanding delights.

Duncan Ferguson wants his name down for that one. You can be sure of it.

Benitez bemoans missed chances

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 didn't score."

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 players.

"They have fought today and you cannot say anything to the players as they ran a lot and had many clear chances."

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 occasion.

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 list.

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 downfall.

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 the half-hour.

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 Savage.

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 unlikely winner.

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Thor Zakariassen ©