Reds boss Rafa
calls for realism
Rafa Benitez has for the first time played
down Liverpool's title hopes and asked for "realism" as the
club fight to end a poor run of results.
Liverpool are 11 points behind leaders
Chelsea following Monday night's 2-2 home draw with
Benitez's side have won only one of their last nine matches
in all competitions, and just one of their last five in the
It has left them with a mountain to climb if they believe
they can catch Chelsea, when the more realistic target now
is surely to retain their place in the top four and achieve
Champions League qualification for next season.
Benitez said after the draw with the Midlanders: "We have to
be realistic and think what our target is now. For me it is
just the next game, the next point to see whether we can
climb a little higher in the table.
"Then you never know what can happen. We did win six games
in a row, if we did that again everything would be
"The main thing now is to get players fit, and see who we
have available for the next game after the international
"We will then wait for some months to pass and see whether
we can win some games in succession. That is all I am
looking at now."
Benitez has always talked of the big clubs losing more
matches this season, which would allow Liverpool to keep in
contact despite their nightmare form.
The Spaniard added: "People keep discussing our bad run, but
previously we won six on the trot and we have beaten
"It is a question of keeping going. I would be really
worried if we were not playing well and not winning. But I
can see that we are beginning to play better, it is a
question of luck now.
"Maybe people think that I am angry about all this. But when
I see the players working so hard, trying to change our
situation, there is nothing more to say to them, they are
doing all they can.
"This is the only way to change our situation. To keep
working hard and play well, and I believe we did play well
Benitez has more injury problems involving Yossi Benayoun,
Daniel Agger and Albert Riera, while Fernando Torres could
be out for a further three weeks, which would rule him out
against Manchester City and Everton in the league and the
Champions League tie away to Debrecen.
He continued: "We are talking of two or three weeks out now
for Fernando. The hamstrings for Riera and Benayoun could be
the same and Agger has more problems with his back.
"He has worked hard in training, and we felt he would be
okay for the match. But you could see that he was not right.
"The plus points are that Glen Johnson was back and playing
well, while Alberto Aquilani finally got a chance to play at
"Steven Gerrard looked okay after his groin problems,
physically he was fine. We will have to see how the injury
reacts but he brought us quality and passion, and I hope
that we can now manage his problems better."
Birmingham boss Alex McLeish had sympathy for Benitez if not
David Ngog's part in the controversial penalty equaliser,
the French under-21 striker being accused of diving.
McLeish said: "Liverpool are missing key players,
world-class people like Torres and Gerrard. Any team is
affected when they lose their best players.
"There is not a lot of understanding in the game when you
lose people like that, it is the football life managers are
in and you have to accept that.
"But you must rise above the storm, I have been through the
same and you have to bounce back.
"Benitez is a top manager with plenty of medals to his name.
I am sure he will also bounce back."
Johnson: 'Awful' Reds must fight
BBC Sport Online
Liverpool defender Glen Johnson admits that
the Reds have to "stick together" if they are to end their
alarming run of just one win in nine games.
"It sounds awful and it is awful for a club
like Liverpool to have a run like that," he told BBC Radio
"But this is football. Things like that happen. We're not
going to sit there and feel sorry for ourselves. You have to
stick together and keep fighting."
Liverpool are now 11 points adrift of Premier League leaders
But, after being 2-1 down at half-time, the controversial
second-half Steven Gerrard penalty which won Rafa Benitez's
team a point against Birmingham City at Anfield a point on
Monday night did suggest the Reds' recent run of bad luck
might have ended.
Prior to that, Birmingham had cancelled out David Ngog's
early strike with their only two shots on target, the second
of them a freakish 30-yard wonder strike from Cameron
But, despite intense second-half Liverpool pressure, Blues
hung on to stretch their great recent record at Anfield,
where they have not lost now in four visits.
"We know the run of luck is against us at the minute," said
Johnson. "Jerome has hit the strike of his life and the
first goal could have been dealt with better.
"Obviously we want to be winning those games, but it wasn't
meant to be.
"I felt like we'd done enough to get three points.
"We had chances and we dominated the game. The confidence
was there with the boys and we were fighting for the cause."
Johnson, who started the move that led to Ngog's opener,
made a successful return from the calf injury which had kept
him out for three games, winning the man-of-the-match award.
"As everybody knows I like to get forward," he said. "We
would have liked to have created another goal to win the
game. But it wasn't to be.
"I was just pleased to get back out there and fight
alongside the boys."
fears hamstring tears for duo
Bad to worse for Liverpool? Apparently so
because Rafa Benitez is fearing the worst for Albert Riera
and Yossi Benayoun after they were injured against
Birmingham on Monday night.
According to the club's official website, Benitez 'fears
both wingers tore their hamstrings' in the 2-2 draw.
"Riera had the same problem as before. The players are
sometimes available but not 100 per cent ready. We thought
he was okay but in the end you can see he wasn't," Benitez
"Yossi has the same problem as Riera. Some players are
playing too many games in a row. They are working very hard
and so you always have this risk. I think both will have
As for Fernando Torres, who missed the match, there's no
guarantee that will be fit for the Man City clash in two
"Torres had no confidence and said he couldn't play, so we
started the treatment yesterday," reported Benitez. "He has
to work with the physios and try to improve and be ready. We
are not talking about an operation at this moment, we're
talking about treating him properly. I don't know if he will
be ready for Man City. The only thing I can say is we're
talking about two or three weeks working with the physios.
We haven't got a deadline, we just need to see how he is
The only bit of good news delivered by the Pool manager
concerned Steven Gerrard. "I think he will be okay," said
Benitez. "We have to check. There's small things but I think
he'll be okay."
Reds lack a
Comment by Dominic King - Liverpool Echo
And so continues one of the most curious
records in Rafa Benitez’s Anfield reign – but what else did
you expect when Birmingham’s visit was switched to a Monday
While Liverpool’s manager has savoured many famous triumphs
in the 202 Premier League matches he has taken charge of,
and claimed all the biggest scalps, the only team he has not
beaten are the Blues from England’s second city.
What’s more, bizarrely, Benitez has never tasted success in
a game on the first day of the working week here; throw into
the equation that Birmingham had a striker by the same name
in their ranks and, perhaps, it was inevitable Liverpool’s
misery would continue.
Quite how that happened will be causing Benitez much
consternation today; dominant in possession, determined in
their work, Liverpool could have won in a canter; instead
they required all their inner strength – and a slice of luck
– to haul themselves off the canvas
It’s easy to harp on about bad luck or blame poor results on
the fact fate has dealt a fickle hand but you only needed to
see the way Liverpool began this contest, passing and moving
with confidence, the difference a clearing sick bay made.
Take Glen Johnson. Prevented from playing at Fulham or in
Lyon due to a torn calf muscle, he showed precisely what had
been missing on the right side of the field with a couple of
energetic, skilful forays to put the Reds on the front foot.
His main job, of course, is to stop goals but Johnson has
shown with great regularity since arriving here that he is
just as effective at creating them, his searing pace, superb
control and shuffling feet are becoming increasingly potent
Try as they might, Birmingham found it almost impossible to
put the shackles on Johnson in the opening exchanges and it
was no surprise he was involved heavily in the move which
enabled the Reds to poke their noses in front.
A terrific change of pace and some smart close control
enabled Johnson to create a yard of space before delivering
a cross that David Ngog smashed towards goal but Joe Hart
worked wonders to keep that effort out, as he did with Dirk
Kuyt’s follow up.
Albert Riera, though, showed great composure to keep the
move alive and picked out Ngog, who applied the emphatic
finish a baying Kop demanded – the only surprise was it took
Liverpool 13 minutes.
True, the goal was not celebrated as wildly as Ngog’s
previous strike at that end of the ground but it was just as
well received in light of the three results since the young
Frenchman put Manchester United out of their misery on
Ngog, clearly, is not Fernando Torres but he is improving
all the time, starting to give the impression he will one
day be an effective operator at this exalted level.
As he wheeled away to celebrate his fourth goal of the
campaign, the thought of Liverpool trailing at half-time was
utterly ludicrous but that, incredibly, was the situation in
which they found themselves.
People can point the finger at Benitez all they want but
what can he do when his defenders make the kind of mistakes
that would have a League Two manager tearing his hair out?
With Jamie Carragher sat in the stands serving a suspension,
it was inevitable Birmingham would look to expose any aerial
failings in Liverpool’s armour but the manner of their
equaliser was absurd.
James McFadden simply hung a free-kick up to the back post,
Roger Johnson was put under no pressure as he flicked on,
nor was Scott Dann, and, inevitably given his surname,
Christian Benitez did the rest.
That goal completely took the wind out of Liverpool’s sails
but worse, incredibly, was to follow. Quite why Martin
Skrtel felt the need to play a head high ball to Steven
Gerrard in first half injury time only he will know, but his
decision was given maximum punishment.
Admittedly, Cameron Jerome’s strike was quite spectacular, a
dipping volley which flew past Pepe Reina.
Whatever Benitez said in the dressing room, however, worked
the oracle as the intensity of the Reds’ movement was
Ultimately, however, they could not find a killer instinct
in the final third, a point proven by the fact Hart’s only
saves of note in the second period were shots from distance
by Lucas and Yossi Benayoun.
That the bleak scenario of a sixth Premier League defeat was
avoided was thanks to referee Peter Walton adjudging Lee
Carsley’s tackle on a Ngog to be illegal and pointing to the
spot to give Liverpool a lifeline.
Whether they should have had the chance is open to debate as
Ngog told Benitez no contact was made but Gerrard made no
mistake from 12 yards yet it did not trigger the anticipated
So frustrating. Three points were not just required to
improve the position in the table – they were needed to ease
everyone’s peace of mind and placate anxiety.
Instead we must hope those on international duty return
unscathed and the injured few improve in time to face
Manchester City. Fate, surely, can’t deal any more jokers –
International break comes
at right time for Rafa Benitez
Comment by James Pearce - Liverpool Echo
Rafa Benitez is no fan of international
breaks but this one may have come at just the right time.
The next 11 days provide an opportunity for the Liverpool
boss to take stock away from the spotlight and plot his
sides route out of an alarming slump.
A campaign already in serious danger of meltdown took
another turn for the worse against Birmingham City.
The mist descended at Anfield last night but there was no
hiding his sides deficiencies.
Benitez has ridden out many storms during his Anfield tenure
but this is without doubt the fiercest.
The Spaniard needs to find solutions to a seemingly
ever-growing list of problems.
Some of those weaknesses can be corrected by hard work on
the training ground like his sides inability to make their
dominance in games count and their glaring defensive
For others, Benitez will look to the Melwood medical team to
weave some magic as he battles with the worst injury crisis
of his managerial career.
Yossi Benayoun and Albert Riera were the latest victims to
head for the treatment table after pulling up lame with
hamstring problems last night.
News that Daniel Agger aggravated a back problem and
Fernando Torres was nowhere near fit enough to face
Birmingham, dampened the sombre mood still further.
Viruses, injuries, beach balls and dodgy red cards Benitez
must truly feel the fates have conspired against him in
The result is a miserable sequence of just one win in nine
Liverpool not only need a miracle to progress to the
knockout stages of the Champions League, but they now face a
battle to play any part at all in next seasons competition.
Forget the title. With Chelsea now 11 points clear of the
Reds, Carlo Ancelottis side have disappeared over the
After last seasons second placed finish all the talk was of
Liverpool taking the next step this season, but a woeful
lack of investment in the playing squad back in the summer
has heavily contributed to ensuring that next step will be a
The injuries have laid bare the alarming lack of depth in
The target now is a top four finish and unlike in previous
years that is no gimme with Manchester City, Tottenham and
Aston Villa having stepped up their assault on the
established order and securing a spot at Europes top table.
Last nights contest just about summed up Liverpools season
There wasnt an awful lot wrong but they were made to pay a
heavy price for their errors.
There could be no questioning the character or commitment
but too often quality was sadly lacking as they failed to
make a remarkable 78% of possession count.
Infuriatingly, they were left desperately chasing a game
they could have had wrapped up inside the opening half hour.
After young Frenchman David Ngog deservedly put the Reds in
front early on with an emphatic volley it should have been
the start of a procession.
But further chances were spurned and as has been the case
far too often this season Liverpool shot themselves in the
foot with another bout of schoolboy defending from a
set-piece allowing Christian Benitez to pile the misery on
Having to chop and change their backline has not helped
Liverpool this season but there is no excuse for not even
doing the basics right.
There was little that could be done about Cameron Jeromes
stunning strike on the stroke of half-time.
It silenced a crowd who had been on their feet moments
earlier when skipper Steven Gerrard made his return to
action after four games out in place of Riera.
The response in the second half was emphatic. Glen Johnson
terrorised Liam Ridgewell and added a spark, but too many of
his team-mates appeared anxious and short on confidence with
countless passes going astray and crosses overhit.
The equaliser arrived in controversial fashion after Ngog
tumbled over Lee Carsleys legs and Gerrard slotted home from
But the skipper couldnt add to his list of famous Houdini
impersonations as a winner proved elusive.
In the closing minutes Benitez paced around the technical
area anxiously pointing at his watch in the direction of
The clock is ticking on Liverpools season and every second
counts before Manchester Citys visit a week on Saturday.
fumes at Ngog
Birmingham manager Alex McLeish was left
furious after Liverpool grabbed a point at Anfield.
David Ngog had given the home side an early lead, but
Christian Benitez and then Cameron Jerome put Birmingham
ahead at the break.
Then with 20 minutes left, Ngog went down under a Lee
Carsley challenge - but replays confirmed that the
Birmingham midfielder did not touch the French forward.
And McLeish was left fuming with Ngog's simulation.
"It is a shame for the game, he has conned the referee,"
"Lee has gone in but he has not made contact with the
player, Mr Walton is a great referee but he has got that
"I thought they huffed and puffed but I don't think they
were going to score, if we hadn't had that I think we would
"He could have hurdled him, he didn't have to go to ground.
"It is ludicrous, part of the game is evading the challenges
- but he has got his team a penalty and they got a point,
but unfortunately it cost us possibly two points."
Carlsey was also left fuming with Ngog, saying: "I was
absolutely nowhere near him. It's a joke.
"I knew I didn't touch him and I said to the referee to book
me or send me off, it would have made me feel better.
"I'm sure he (Ngog) has got a family, well if I went home
having done that I'd be embarrassed.
"You're supposed to be teaching your kids an example and
that is just an embarrassing case of cheating.
"But the lad's taken a chance and got his team a point so
I'm sure they'll be patting him on the back."
McLeish, though, was full of praise for his side's display.
"It was a great performance, we have scored two cracking
goals after Liverpool had taken the lead, not many teams
take the lead at Anfield after Liverpool go in front," he
"They say it evens itself out but it evens itself out more
tor the big teams.
"The players were brilliant tonight and the spirit in the
dressing is great."
We should have won
Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez insists his
side should have beaten Birmingham.
The Reds grabbed a 2-2 draw with Birmingham, courtesy of a
highly controversial penalty as David Ngog appeared to dive
under Lee Carsley's challenge.
Earlier Ngog had volleyed Liverpool ahead, only for
Christian Benitez and Cameron Jerome to put Birmingham ahead
at the break.
Benitez did concede that the late penalty maybe should not
have been given - but he insisted a point was the least that
"I think it is difficult to explain [why we didn't win], we
had some many chances, plenty of possession," he told ESPN.
"But in the end we are talking about the penalty - whether
it was or not, maybe it wasn't, but we deserved to win as we
had some many opportunities.
"I was talking to him and he said maybe it wasn't a penalty,
but anyway I would say that with 74 per cent of possession
in the first half and how many attempts it is unbelievable
that we are talking about a draw in this game."
Benitez avoided questioning about whether Liverpool's title
hopes were gone, with The Reds now sitting 11 points adrift
of leaders Chelsea.
"We have to be ready for the next game, that is it," he
"Playing as well as today and showing he character we did,
you could see the belief of the players and that is the
message. The message for everyone here is that we are
working very hard and things will change."
hold Reds at Anfield
Liverpool dropped yet more Premier League
points as they were held to a 2-2 draw by Birmingham City
And it could have been so much worse for Rafa Benitez, whose
side trailed 2-1 before captain Steven Gerrard - who started
the match on the substitutes' bench - slotted home a penalty
which was highly controversial.
David Ngog, who had given Liverpool an early lead, looked to
have dived with Lee Carsley sliding in and making no contact
- but referee Peter Walton awarded the spot-kick which
allowed Gerrard to slot home.
Earlier Christian Benitez had headed The Blues level, before
Cameron Jerome's stunning strike just before half-time gave
Alex McLeish's side the lead.
Gerrard, though, stepped up to slot home - but a draw will
still be of huge frustration to Benitez - who is still yet
to beat Birmingham in the Premier League.
The point means Liverpool remain in seventh, but some 11
points adrift of leaders Chelsea.
Fernando Torres did not even get a substitutes' role, the
Spain striker now clearly being given a lengthy rest to
recover from his groin problem.
Gerrard, with a similar if less severe injury, was named on
the bench along with Alberto Aquilani.
Glen Johnson, Albert Riera and Martin Skrtel all returned
from injury, with Jamie Carragher suspended.
Birmingham had Joe Hart back in goal while they were without
Barry Ferguson, also suspended, so Teemu Tainio came into
Liverpool went with the 20-year-old Ngog up front and Dirk
Kuyt, captain for the night, in a central supporting role.
Of all Liverpool's young imports, Ngog has looked the most
likely to make the breakthrough this season, and his balance
and clever control were soon in evidence.
Hart saved one Ngog effort before the France Under-21
striker gave Liverpool a 13th-minute lead. Johnson surged
down the right, cutting between two defenders before
crossing for Ngog who saw his first effort blocked by Hart.
The ball flew to Kuyt only for Hart to again get his legs in
the way, but when the rebound dropped for Ngog he made no
mistake with a fierce a close-range volley into the roof of
Tainio limped off two minutes later, former Everton
midfielder Carsley coming on in his place.
Liverpool had been cruising up till now, but Birmingham
struck back with an impressive set-piece, and once again
Liverpool's susceptibility in the air was evident.
James McFadden fired a free-kick into the area and Roger
Johnson headed back across goal where Scott Dann nodded on
for Benitez to head past Jose Reina from close range.
Hart touched over a Javier Mascherano drive, and Daniel
Agger saw a low shot following a corner kicked off the line
by Carsley as Liverpool tried to hit back.
A minute from the break Riera, who had appeared to be on a
solo bid to score from outside the box at almost every
opportunity, suffered a recurrence of a hamstring injury,
and Gerrard was brought into the fray as a substitute.
His arrival was met with huge cheers from the Kop, but the
home crowd was silenced within seconds as Birmingham took
Jerome shook off the attentions of Mascherano to lash a
swerving 30-yard effort into the top corner.
The confidence Liverpool had shown in the first half hour
evaporated and, with the crowd's anxiety growing, errors in
Gerrard saw a low header hit Hart's left-hand post from
Johnson's cross from the right as Liverpool at last produced
some sustained pressure.
McFadden was booked for a foul on Johnson, the Scot being
substituted soon after to be replaced by former Red Gregory
Liverpool were then awarded the highly-contentious
71st-minute penalty. Ngog did well to get to the byline and
went sprawling to the turf as Carsley came in with a sliding
challenge, even though the Birmingham man's leg did not
touch the Liverpool youngster.
Carsley and Ngog exchanged views and pushes, and referee
Peter Walton booked both before Gerrard stepped up to drill
home the spot kick.
Liverpool then lost Benayoun with a hamstring complaint,
Ryan Babel coming on.
Gerrard fired over a cross for Ngog to hit wide at the near
post before sending an 18-yarder just wide.
With nine minutes left Aquilani finally made his Anfield
debut as a substitute for Lucas.
The visitors were forced to defend desperately in the final
minutes and hung on valiantly for a point.