Ngog (15), Gerrard (71) pen
Birmingham City 2
Benitez (26), Jerome (45)
Who is the most maligned man these days? Rafa Bentiez, or Gordon Brown? What ever they say or write more pressure appears to be heaped on them.
For a period last night Rafa now joined our beleaguered PM by having the name Cameron very much on his mind. However, in his case it was someone with a policy, shoot on sight. Cameron Jerome’s well struck screamer into the top left corner just before the break was certainly not part of his half time team talk manifesto.
Despite that for the briefest of moments last night I thought we were going to see a repeat of last season’s Middlesbrough, Manchester City and Wigan games were we snatched victory for the jaws of defeat with a barnstorming finish. Sadly, last year and this year seem poles and poles apart. All we saw was plenty of industry, but no finale and yet more bad luck.
When I say “bad luck” I refer to the injuries to Benayoun and Riera. The former limped off after 75 minutes whilst the latter’s, if his reaction was anything to go by, looked much more serious. A disappointing and frustrating outcome considering we had just got Johnson and Gerrard back?
In using the phrase “bad luck” I do not refer to the “penalty” awarded to us because of Ngog’s “dive” over Carsley, even Rafa expressed doubt over its validity! It’s tempting to condemn Ngog for what he did as much as it is to say that these things even themselves out over the course of the season. Neither serves any purpose or stops the brickbats. Until players start behaving honestly or referees are given more help to make their decisions nothing will be done, Birmingham have every cause to feel hard by. And us I suspect there was the odd rueful smile mixed with some half hearted attempts to justify it? We need some luck at the moment but did we really want it to come this way?
Before that Ngog had made his mark with a goal in the fifteenth minute. Johnson made an immediate impact on his return thrusting down the right flank and crossing to Ngog who eventually scored after his first shot, along with Kuyt’s follow up, was saved by Hart. Ngog is no Torres but he is slowly but surely strengthening his claim to first team football?
So a good start and seemingly in control, Birmingham had showed nothing to suggest what would happen next? However with our defence at the moment things cannot be taken for granted, there is always the risk of falling for a sucker punch? In this case it came from Christian Benitez who finally, with a close range header, finished off a move that began with McFadden’s free kick. Birmingham were clearly galvanised by their equaliser and even though Lucas and Mascherano went close, looked more confident. Riera went off with his injury and Gerrard came on but we were unable to stop Jerome’s spectacular dipping effort.
In the second half the pressure on the Birmingham goal increased. Gerrard’s influence grew culminating in him heading against the post, after more good work by Johnson, and then despatching the penalty. Aquilani was bought on for his home debut but only for the last ten minutes. The pressure continued to an extent that on another day we’d be well up. Birmingham helped by deciding to sit back and let us come at them but somehow they hung on. Perhaps they sensed that, although we had the run of play right from the start, we were having difficulty in unearthing the nugget of inspiration that would enable us to turn it around? Sadly they were right and not for the first time this season, it remained illusive.
Liverpool: Reina, Insua, Agger, Skrtel, Johnson, Riera, Leiva, Mascherano, Benayoun, Kuyt (c), Ngog. Subs – Aquilani, Babel, Cavalieri, Darby, Gerrard, Kyrgiakos, Spearing
Birmingham City: Hart, Ridgewell, Dann, Johnson, Carr (c), McFadden, Bowyer, Tainio, Larsson, Benitez, Jerome. Subs – Carsley, Espinoza, McSheffrey, Phillips, Queudrue, Taylor, Vignal