Liverpool's Pepe Reina saves earn Liverpool an undeserved draw
Fledgling Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson took his new look Reds team to St. Andrews, home of Birmingham City, lying in the bottom half of the table with a mere four points from his first three games in charge.
Although this game looked to be one where Liverpool were expected to come away with a win, albeit a hard-fought one, knowledgeable fans know that the Reds have a dismal record at St. Andrews. The Liverpool team knew they were in for a tough afternoon and my word, did they get it.
The boss gave his Fulham left back and new Liverpool left back, Paul Konchesky a full debut and overall his new signing gave an impressive opening display.
Konchesky grew in confidence as the game wore on and was involved in some of the few good things Liverpool did this afternoon. He also put in an assured defensive display, something his right back team mate, Glen Johnson, would do well to note.
The new signing has one full England cap to his name and if he continues to improve on his initial outing, then Fabio Capello may well give him the chance to add to that.
A place on the bench was all that Hodgson's latest signing, Portuguese Raul Meireles, was awarded. Although, with 15 minutes left of the match, he replaced Lucas.
From the off, it is clear to see that Meireles has bags of energy, an assured touch, and an eye for a good run, whether he is making it or spotting it. Given time to settle into the groove, the tattooed Portuguese international will surely make a starting position in the midfield his own.
However, today's starting line seemed a little too workmanlike and it was difficult to see where the flair and creativity was going to come from. Certainly, if it was to be provided by Maxi Rodriguez or Milan Jovanovic, they did not seem capable of it this afternoon.
But credit to Birmingham City, they played with a dogged resistance, persistence, and energy that it seemed they would not be able to maintain till the end; but they did.
Biting into the heels of Liverpool players whenever the Reds were in possession, they were quicker into the tackle and simply had more hunger and desire.
Denying space for Steven Gerrard to operate made Liverpool even less of a threat. And with Fernando Torres still seemingly off form and extremely rusty, the Reds never really looked like getting a goal this afternoon.
The Liverpool captain took a painful, but seemly recoverable, knock to the ear but the injury was a persistent problem to Gerrard. He even had to have a bandage wrapped round his head to stem the flow of blood.
Paradoxically, it was only really then that fans saw the real Steven Gerrard, but even his phenomenal powers were not enough.
Torres seems to be at a low point in his Liverpool career. This early in the season, he seems not only unfit and rusty, but his attitude to the game is not what has made him the darling of the fans. And in trying to recapture their idolization, he seems to be attempting the spectacular when the simple would be far more effective.
If scoring a goal was going to be a problem for the men from Anfield, then keeping Birmingham City out was even more of a priority. For if as it looked, Liverpool were not going to win, then not losing was paramount.
In the latest international friendly, Pepe Reina was given a rare start by his national team coach and went on to concede four to a rampant Argentina. But, in Reina, Liverpool have without doubt the best goalkeeper in the Premier League and a man of formidable personality, character, and resolve.
Few of his team mates deserve any real praise for their performances this afternoon, but Reina deserves all the accolades that come his way in the post match write-ups.
Time and time again, Liverpool's shocking marking from crosses into the box was exposed and time after time there was Reina to pull of truly world-class saves.
It is evident that the days of zonal marking are a thing of the past for the Liverpool defense, but if this is how they are going about marking man to man, then many goals will be conceded before they come anywhere close to mastering it.
Reina's opening day blunder was, as all Liverpool fans knew, a very rare mistake from an otherwise impeccable goalkeeper. For today, Liverpool's Spanish ace kept his team in a game that they had little right to be in at all.
Hodgson knows that in Reina he has a player that he can rely on to be consistently at the top of his game, which cannot be said for most of his other players on show today.
After four Premier League games in charge, Hodgson has led the Reds to five points and13th place. Early days some may say, but Hodgson has to start to pull his team into shape or rivals will already be off into the distance.