Liverpool Struggle To Goalless Draw Against Birmingham City
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Birmingham City 0 - Liverpool 0
Liverpool came away from St Andrews this afternoon with a point after a goalless draw against Birmingham City. But the game will only have raised more concerns for Roy Hodgson, whose team owe a huge debt of gratitude to goalkeeper Pepe Reina.
Reina made three world-class saves to deny Birmingham a win that they possibly deserved, although in truth neither side played particularly well.
Both teams lined up with only one striker and for most of the game the crowded midfield restricted both teams to long-balls, which were easily coped with by centre-back partnerships of Richard Johnson and Scott Dann for Birmingham, and Jamie Carragher and Martin Skrtel for Liverpool.
Fernando Torres, who didn't play in Spain's midweek friendly against Argentina, led the line for Liverpool but struggled to get involved and had very little quality service to feed off of.
Hodgson, who was without Dirk Kuyt, named Lucas and Christian Poulsen in the centre of the midfield and many Liverpool fans may point at this for being the reason Torres struggled.
Lucas and Poulsen both struggled to impose any momentum on Liverpool's attacking play and as a result, Torres and captain Steven Gerrard both found it hard to impose themselves on the game.
At the other end the Reds look suspect against the aerial threat of Birmingham.
Reina was called into action early on to deny Cameron Jerome after a pin-point cross from Lee Bowyer. The Spaniard dived low to his right to tip the striker's header around the post.
Later in the first-half, Reina was once again called upon to bail out his defenders when he just managed to beat Jerome to a Sebastian Larsson cross.
But his best was still to come. Stephen Carr, who had the freedom of the right flank for most of the match, whipped in a cross which was met by Birmingham midfielder Craig Gardner. With the ball seemingly headed towards the back of the net, Reina somehow managed to get down and claw the ball to safety.
The second half started slightly better for Liverpool, as Gerrard managed to test Birmingham keeper Ben Foster for the first time in the match. But it wasn't until Lucas was replaced by new signing Raul Meireles that Liverpool found any real rhythm.
The Portuguese international played just behind Torres, as Gerrard was pushed back into the midfield alongside Poulsen. The move allowed the Liverpool captain to become more and more influential, especially when making the runs from deep that have characterised his Anfield career.
Even so, at best this can be described as a lacklustre performance from Liverpool, who on this showing are not going to make the top-four in the Premier League.
Yes, Birmingham don't often lose at home, indeed it's almost 12 months since they were last beaten at St Andrews in the league, but the all-around Liverpool performance gives Liverpool fans very little to be optimistic about.
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