Rafa Benitez’s decision to rest Fernando Torres again in a match the Reds should be looking to win if they are to maintain a serious title challenge this season will grab the headlines after a lacklustre performance saw his side drop two more points.
Match Report by Matthew Watson
Liverpool put in a disapointing performance against pre-season relegation contenders Birmingham City at Anfield, in which is now their third draw in a row and second succesive 0-0 in the Premiership. Liverpool never made their possession count during the game, and were slack in the final third of the pitch with a lot of wasteful passing. The main talking point before the game was that record signing Fernando Torres had been named on the substitutes bench again by Rafa Benitez.
Birmingham kicked off the game, but it was Rafa’s men who took control early on, and from their on never really lost control. Ryan Babel looked sharp early on with a few darting runs down the left, nearly setting Kuyt up but his shot was weak and sailed wide. The first half saw few chances, with Dirk Kuyt having a few half punts from outside the box, which saw most of them go wide of the mark. John Arne Riise had a chance with one of his thunderbolt shots from 25 yards but just didn’t catch it right and saw it fly past the goal by some distance after 20 minutes. Liverpool had to wait until about 40 minutes to really test Taylor in the Birmingham net, when Captain Steven Gerrard layed it of for Jermaine Pennant to hit it from outside the box for Taylor to save well by tipping it over the bar. Birminghams’ only real chance of the first half came when Camerone Jerome nearly caught Reina off guard with a long distance attempt from nowhere, but Pepe had his eyes on it all the way.
Liverpool kicked off the second half, and were faced again with trying to break the 11 man wall that Birmingham had camped out infront of their goal. The first decent attempt of the 2nd half came from Ryan Babel but he shot wide of Taylors goal. Babel who looked impressive for the first ten minutes of the match, thereafter never capitalised on his sharp start and was often dispossessed and never really developed anything worth wild for the team attacking wise. Before the hour mark Andriy Voronin caused Taylor to make a good stop diving to his right, when he hit a well executed shot from outside the box which was heading straight for the bottom right hand corner, if it weren’t for Taylors intervention. Fernando Torres came on for the last half an hour to try and create something in the final 3rd for Liverpool coming on for Ryan Babel, which meant that Andriy Voronin drifted out to the right hand side, while Jermaine Pennant switched to the left. Birmingham though had there only meaningful chance of the half when a long range shot from Kapo just after the hour mark, which was saved well from Reina tipping it round his right hand post after the ball came through a crowd of players.
The introduction of Torres and also Crouch later on didn’t make much difference for Liverpool as there final ball was poor, and many a time were trying for the ‘˜extravagant pass’ instead of the simple stuff. A disapointing Steven Gerrard tried in vein to make something happen but everytime he made an attempt to charge forwards was knocked down by Birminghams’ wall of defence. On 77 minutes though, the Liverpool fans nearly had something to cheer about at last when a great ball from the byline by Jermaine Pennant was met by the Acrobatics of Fernando Torres whos overhead kick went narrowly wide. What a goal it would have been. Liverpool still couldn’t conjure anything up and were getting ever more frustrated. Crouch’s header in the dieing minutes summed up the afternoon for the Red men, high and wide and just off the mark.
A poor performance from the lads today. They were wasteful with their passing, and weren’t playing it simple, just trying to go for the long ball all the time which was just pointless as Crouch wasn’t even on the field for 70 odd minutes. Ryan Babel was disapointing as he never really managed to get down the bylines to put in any meaningful balls into the box. Dirk Kuyt was unusually quiet, just having a few half chances, and never really getting hold of the ball. Though there was one man on the pitch who shone brightly above all the others in red. His name was Javier Mascherano. He was great in such a disapointing performance from the team. 9 times out of 10 when Steve Bruce’s men tried to counter attack he was there to stop it. He showed determination and commitment in which was a lack luster game for the Reds.
Will Rafa regret not starting El Nino? Would he have made a difference? One thing is for sure is that we should be beating teams like Birmingham if we want to win this League. Well done to Steve Bruce’s Men today, they frustrated us, and did their job. Putting 11 men behind the ball and hoping to get something on the counter. This point is like an early Christmas present for them. They don’t expect to come to the ‘˜big 4’ and get anything. If they do it’s a bonus, and we just rapped it up and gave it to them.
Lets hope for a better performance and result come Tuesday. Bring on Steve Coppell’s Reading.
Man of the Match: Javier Mascherano
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Hyypia, Carragher, Riise, Pennant (Finnan 87), Gerrard, Mascherano, Babel (Torres 60), Kuyt, Voronin (Crouch 74)
Subs Not Used: Itandje, Sissoko
Birmingham: Maik Taylor, Kelly, Djourou, Ridgewell, Queudrue, Larsson, Palacios (O’Connor 68), Nafti, Melendez (McSheffrey 13), Kapo, Jerome (Schmitz 80)
Subs Not Used: Kingson, Forssell
Booked: Ridgewell, McSheffrey
Referee: Lee Mason (Lancashire)