After The Match 


Birmingham-Liverpool 2-0 (2-0)      Sat Feb 12.            Premier League
Goals: Pandiani (38 pen), Gray (45)
Team: Dudek, Finnan, Hyypia, Carragher, Traore, Hamann, Biscan, Riise, Baros, Gerrard, Morientes
Subs: Smicer (Biscan 46), Nunez (Riise 63), Pellegrino (Finnan 79)
Not used: Carson, Warnock
Yellow: Tebily (49), Heskey (71)
Red: None
Referee: H.Webb (S Yorkshire)
Attendance: 29,318

                             MATCH-REPORTS & RESULTS 
Shots on target: 3-2
Shots off target: 2-4
Fouls conceded: 16-10
Corners: 10-4
Yellow: 2-0




HEADLINES "We will be
on our toes for
the next game."
            Jerzy Dudek
1602: Benitez rounds on Liverpool flops
1402: Dudek: We're all angry at setback
1402: Anonymous Gerrard hurts Anfield morale
1202: Rafa shocked by Reds display
1202: Bruce: Our best ever performance
1202: Reds suffer the Blues


Benitez rounds on Liverpool flops

BBC Sport Online

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has launched a stinging public attack on his players in the aftermath of the disappointing defeat at Birmingham.

Benitez's side lost the chance to make ground on Everton in the fight for a Champions League place in a 2-0 defeat.

And he told the Liverpool Echo: "I have come here to work hard and I expect everyone else to do the same.

"We must accept the Birmingham game was bad and not the kind of performance we want in future."

Benitez added: "I don't want to spend time here without trophies. It's not enough for me to see my side play well in one or two games. I want consistency and that means everyone working harder.

"I told the players this week that when I decided to join this club I took it on as a challenge. I have not come to Liverpool to earn money.

"We all have to accept responsibility and do everything we possibly can to make a strong team, not only in the future but from now."

Benitez added: "After the Birmingham game I felt very disappointed and it was the same the day after. I watched the video of the match and analysed what happened.

"On Monday we spoke to the players and told them we must change our mentality. You can't have a team which always plays good sometimes and bad others.

"What makes it worse is we went into the Birmingham game knowing Everton had lost earlier, so we had a chance to close the gap."

Benitez also insists players cannot use midweek internationals as an excuse for lack-lustre performances.

He said: "When the players go to their national teams, I think a lot of them lose their concentration.

"We have seen this before with the breaks. When they come back, we lose a game and I think it's a dangerous time for us.

"It shouldn't be like this. If you want to win trophies and play for a big club, you have to play important games all the time. Whether it's for the national team or Champions League, you have to reach a level and stay at it.

"We have accepted it was bad last weekend and now we must try to be positive about the future.

"There are eleven games left, five of which are at home against teams around us and fighting for fourth and fifth."

Dudek: We're all angry at setback

By Ian Doyle - Daily Post Staff

Jerzy Dudek has revealed the "anger" within the Liverpool squad after they wasted an opportunity to close in on fourth-placed Everton at the weekend.

Rafael Benitez's side slipped to a dismal 2-0 defeat at Birmingham City to remain five points behind their neighbours in the race for Champions League qualification.

But goalkeeper Dudek insists the Anfield side remain confident and retain the desire to secure a top-four finish.

"It was a very disappointing result, especially considering Everton lost," he said. "We knew that it would be tough for Everton and that if we had won we would have been closer to fourth place, which is where we want to be.

"It is frustrating that we've got to wait a while for the next game but in one way it is good because we have time to think about what went right and what went wrong.

"There is a very big anger in the team about the way we played. We will be on our toes for the next game.

"But we are still confident we can finish fourth. We have to keep going. We still have Everton at home and we have a lot of games still to play. Everton have some tough games to come but we have to look at ourselves first and how we can improve before we start looking at how the other teams are doing."

Liverpool were off the pace throughout at St Andrews and slumped to their seventh away defeat of the season after a Walter Pandiani penalty and a Julian Gray volley in the first half proved too large an obstacle to overcome.

And Dudek continued: "I don't think the performance was as bad as Southampton. We knew that they would play long balls and that we would have to be ready for the second ball all the time.

"But we didn't deal with that right.

"It was very difficult to come back. At half-time we had the belief we could fight back because we have done that before this season, coming back from 2-0 down, and we thought we could do it again.

"But there was no chance. Birmingham played very well and were very compact and were good in defence and it was difficult to create any decent chances."

Dudek was aggrieved at the decision by referee Howard Webb to award the 37th-minute penalty that set Birmingham on their way to victory after Sami Hyypia and Emile Heskey tangled following a long ball into the area.

"I don't know if it was a penalty," said the Polish international.

"We were not sure and we thought it might have been offside as well. It was controversial.

"I thought that both Sami and Emile fell over themselves. They both didn't really have a chance to connect with the ball as it was bouncing away from them."

Heskey was a constant menace to Liverpool against his old club and was a clear man of the match for Steve Bruce's side.

"Emile played very well and he gave our back four a lot of problems," added Dudek.. "We know how he likes to play and he is one of the best strikers in the air in the country, so we knew it would be difficult to battle for long balls in the air with him.

"With Emile playing against his old club, he was giving 110% to show how well he can play."

Liverpool have a 10-day break before their next game against Bayer Leverkusen in the first leg of their Champions League second round tie at Anfield.

And Dudek said: "We have to keep our heads up because we have an important game coming up against Leverkusen and we have to make sure we are ready for that."

Anonymous Gerrard hurts Anfield morale

By Tony Cascarino - The Times

Prevailing wisdom suggests that no player is bigger than the club. Yet Michael Owen was at Liverpool. And to judge from his past few performances, which have been poor, Steven Gerrard will continue to be until his inevitable departure from Anfield in the summer.

Both stars of England, both undermining and enveloping the Liverpool team and manager with their superstar status.

Gérard Houllier’s response to Owen was largely to ignore the question and try to play him with a series of partners up front — none worked for too long and most were sold on. And while Rafael Benítez was fortunate not to have to deal with that issue, since Owen left soon after the Spaniard’s arrival, he faces a similar dilemma to that of the previous manager. Gerrard, the captain of the most successful club in the history of England, is having a negative impact on the team. The midfield player knows he is leaving; his team-mates know it; Benítez knows it, and the supporters know it. And it is destabilising the club.

By the look of things, Benítez is scared to say anything to Gerrard for fear that any confrontation will spiral into a row at a time when he needs his midfield player to inspire the team in the Carling Cup final and to win a place in the Champions League. Benítez wouldn’t want anything to worsen Gerrard’s form. The Liverpool players will be aware of Benítez’s nervousness. If Benítez were more brave, he would tell Gerrard that he understands that he wants to leave, that he can do so at the end of the season, but until then, he needs him to show the form he was doing at the start of the season.

The midfield player was anonymous against Birmingham City on Saturday — as he was away to Southampton recently — when he trotted around as if it was a practice match, trying some cute threaded passes, but he had no influence. He shrugged his shoulders when passes went astray, attempted some tackles and did little else. He played as if he was counting down the games to his departure and as if his team-mates were not good enough for him — which may be a fair point. Certainly, because of their form, they are hardly in a position to criticise Gerrard for not pulling his weight. But also his Liverpool team-mates will understand that he wants to better himself and that, in his position, they would want to do the same.

I remember a similar scenario at Aston Villa, when the players endured a season of David Platt dreaming of his move to Italy while we struggled in the second part of the season. He was already learning the language. The players whispered it in cliques, but never confronted him. He was a nuisance, at times, for Jozef Venglos, the newly appointed Czech manager. Platt stormed out of training on a couple of occasions, not wanting to do certain exercises. He scored goals without playing well for the team.

He became a hindrance and had a negative effect. The only player who could conceivably have criticised him was Paul McGrath, but no matter the scoreline, the big defender said little. At that stage of my career, had I contemplated saying anything, Platt would have pointed out that I was the club’s record signing, but where were the goals?

I compare that to playing with Andy Townsend and Fabien Barthez, who continued to be outstanding when being approached for a move from Chelsea to Aston Villa and from Marseilles to AS Monaco respectively. And also Roy Keane, who should be a model for Gerrard. Keane was exceptional during his last year at Nottingham Forest while he was being chased by glamorous clubs such as Arsenal, Blackburn Rovers and Manchester United. He would never be the type of player to give less than 100 per cent. Keane was so intimidating that when I drove to training with Ireland, I would be apprehensive about what his mood would be. But he would always inspire players, whether against AC Milan or York City.

Gerrard seems to have lost that attitude from the start of the season. Sure he will perform against Chelsea in the Carling Cup final and against Bayer Leverkusen in the European Cup, but what about upcoming league matches against Newcastle United, Bolton Wanderers and Manchester City?


WAYNE ROONEY: Everton were relegation candidates with him last season and are Champions League-bound without him.

NICOLAS ANELKA: Real Madrid got a sulky Frenchman and a £23 million hole in their bank account while Arsenal got Thierry Henry, for less than half the transfer fee, and two titles to boot.

KEVIN KEEGAN: The Kop mourned his departure from Liverpool to SV Hamburg until they saw the artistry of Kenny Dalglish and then they celebrated for 14 years.

Rafa shocked by Reds display

By Peter ORourke - Sky Sports

Rafa Benitez admitted he was shocked by Liverpool's display in the 2-0 defeat to Birmingham.

The Reds missed the chance to close the gap on Everton in fourth place after a disappointing showing.

Benitez agreed that his side performed well below par and has vowed to analyze the game to put things right.

"It was disappointing and we know we did not play a good game," bemoaned Benitez.

"I don't know why we played like that but we never got to the second balls and had no high tempo.

"Sure we don't play well and we know that we didn't play well and we will analyze why and try and change the situation for the next game.

"We have many important games coming up and that is reason why we need to analyze things."

Benitez also had no complaints about the penalty Birmingham were awarded after former Liverpool star Emile Heskey went down in the box under a challenge from Sami Hyypia.

"I am not sure it was a penalty, but you cannot change the result after the game," added Benitez.

When asked if his side's performance had shocked him the Spaniard replied: "Yes."

Bruce: Our best ever performance

ITV Football

Birmingham manager Steve Bruce hailed his side's performance as the best in their two and a half years of Premiership football as they triumphed 2-0 over lacklustre Liverpool at St Andrews.

First-half goals from Walter Pandiani and Julian Gray dealt a blow to the Reds' hopes of clawing their way back into the race for Champions League football.

An inspired display by striker Emile Heskey helped Blues register only their second win in the last seven League matches.

Bruce said: "In the two and a half years that we have been in the Premiership we have had some great days to look back on.

"But, considering the opposition and the quality they have, that is as good as we have played in the Premiership for an entire 90 minutes.

"A team as good as Liverpool could not manage a shot on our goal until the last minute and we dominated in terms of possession.

"I just couldn't pick out a man of the match today. All of them have played to their maximum and when that happens you are delighted."

Bruce believes Heskey has been unlucky not to have earned an England recall given his performances over the past three months.

He said: "I don't pick the England team, but it does surprise me that he is not involved because he is something different to what we already have in there.

"Defoe, Rooney and Owen are all great players but they are all similar. Emile is one that gives you a different option.

"I think he may well have been back in for the Holland game last week had he not been injured. I don't think he's got anything to prove but he's been everybody's kicking block.

"If you ask people like Michael Owen who have played with him, they'll say he's a great person to work alongside. Pandiani has come off the pitch and said the same today."

Reds suffer the Blues

By Peter O Rourke - Sky Sports

Liverpool missed the chance to close the gap on Everton after suffering a 2-0 defeat at Birmingham.

First half goals from Walter Pandiani (penalty) and Julian Gray were enough to give Steve Bruce's men a deserved win and leave Liverpool trailing Everton by five points in the race for a UEFA Champions League place.

Pandiani had the first opportunity of the game on ten minutes when, at full stretch, he volleyed Jermaine Pennant's cross wide of the target.

Liverpool were struggling to create any clear goalscoring opportunities, but Jamie Clapham got in a vital tackle on 15 minutes to deny Fernando Morientes getting on the end of Steven Gerrard's cross.

The home side suffered a blow two minutes later when Mario Melchiot failed to shake off an earlier knock and was forced to be replaced by Olivier Tebily

Morientes fashioned a chance for himself out of nothing on the half hour when he somehow worked his way past two challenges and fired in a shot straight at Maik Taylor.

Pennant wasted a great opening on 33 minutes when he raced clear on goal, but Jerzy Dudek stood up big to keep out his shot with his arm.

Birmingham were handed the chance to break the deadlock on 38 minutes when referee Howard Webb awarded them a penalty after adjudging that Sami Hyypia had wrestled former team-mate Emile Heskey to the ground inside the box.

Pandiani made no mistake from the spot rifling his shot past Dudek to give Birmingham a deserved lead.

Riise fluffed a great chance to draw Liverpool level minutes later when he ghosted into the box unmarked to meet Steve Finnan's cross, but he got his attempted header all wrong much to the delight of the home fans.

Birmingham doubled their lead right on the stroke of half time with Gray netting his first goal for the club.

Djimi Traore made a mess of a clearance giving the ball to Pennant and the on-loan winger wasted no time in sending a dangerous cross to the far post for Gray to volley high into the net.

Liverpool introduced Vladimir Smicer at the start of the second half in place of the ineffective Igor Biscan, but the visitors continued to struggle to make any headway.

Hyypia got in vital header to prevent Gray's inviting cross reaching Heskey as Birmingham continued to call the tune in the second half.

The subdued Milan Baros wasted a chance for Liverpool on 70 minutes when he dragged a shot from the edge of the box well wide.

Liverpool tried to force their way back into the contest, but Taylor was never troubled in the Birmingham goal.

Liverpool's miserable day was summed up in the dying minutes when Smicer spooned a volley well over the crossbar after being teed up by Traore.

Jamie Carragher was denied a goal back for Liverpool in the last seconds when Damien Johnson kicked his header off the line from Gerrard's corner.

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