Match Report and Player analysis by Robbie Amins at talklfc
It's over. No not everything...just the 100% home record in the Premiership this season. Liverpool attacked and attacked in vain but couldn't find a way past Maik Taylor in the Birmingham goal. It was a combination of poor finishing and good goalkeeping by Taylor that frustrated the Reds.
Birmingham boss Steve Bruce’s side had managed to get just six of a possible forty-eight points from their previous 16 away-day outings, yet they emerged with a rare win at Anfield courtesy of Darren Anderton’s first Blues goal following his move from Tottenham.
Liverpool started the match nervously unlike in their previous home games when they made a few clearcut chances from the start. Harry Kewell doing well to test Maik Taylor's reflexes from range. Luis Garcia then had chances to open the scoring for the Reds.
His first brought another excellent stop from Taylor as he held onto a fierce angled drive, but he should have done better with the second on the half-hour. With only Taylor to beat after a loose ball on the edge of the area had run into his path, Garcia came up with a contender for Miss of the Season - blazing over from 12 yards.
Following a scrappy, untidy end to the first half, it was Garcia who was then the creator of a chance 10 minutes after the restart just at a time when frustration was growing in the home camp.
The little Spaniard delivered a ball with the outside of his right foot. A clever dummy by Harry Kewell ensured the ball went into the path of Didi Hamann who was clean through, and although Cunningham was bearing down, his finish was really poor - with the outside of his right foot but straight at the keeper.
Josemi was shown the yellow card after yet another tangle with Danish winger Jesper Gronkjaer. He was threading on thin ice with the persistent fouls and the Fulham match (where he was sent off) came to mind.
Birmingham had Izzet to thank for keeping them level on 74 minutes when he firstly cleared Jamie Carragher's slide-rule shot off the line and then cleared Garcia's rightfoot follow-up. And Liverpool's claims for handball were waved away by referee Uriah Rennie.
Blues boss Steve Bruce then made an inspired substitution - bringing on Anderton for Stephen Clemence to bolster their midfield. And their goal was definitely against the run of play as the Reds were having more of the ball and in BIrmingham's half since the start of the half. From a freekick from the right, the ball was headed back across goal by Upson and Anderton was unmarked at the far post to guide the ball home from just a yard out. It was very easy for the Anderton and it was very poor defending. Who was the one supposed to be guarding the post?
Liverpool threw everything into attack in the final ten minutes to no avail. Their frustrations were getting the better of them and Didi Hamann was booked for over-protesting to the ref. But the Blues defence held firm for their first away win in the Premiership this season. This 90 minutes was arguably the worst this campaign for the Reds, not simply because they failed to score, but the performance was patchy and lacked any cohesion.
Liverpool: Kirkland, Josemi, Hyypia, Carragher, Traore, Luis Garcia, Hamann (Biscan 85), Alonso, Riise (Mellor 73), Sinama Pongolle (Finnan 65), Kewell. Subs Not Used: Diao, Dudek.
Booked: Josemi, Luis Garcia, Hamann.
Birmingham: Maik Taylor, Melchiot, Cunningham, Upson, Gray, Gronkjaer (Lazaridis 63), Izzet (Clapham 88), Savage, Clemence (Anderton 63), Johnson, Heskey. Subs Not Used: Bennett, Yorke.
Ref: U Rennie (S Yorkshire).
Chris' handling was good as usual. And the goal was a shame because he deserved a clean sheet for his presence between the posts for Liverpool.
Jose Miguel Gonzalez Rey
Steve Bruce must have watched tapes of Liverpool's previous matches where Josemi was probably Liverpool's poorest player in the defence before he decided to deploy pacy Jesper Gronkjaer at the left flank. After a nervous start when he struggled yet again, Josemi looked better as the game went on. Booked yet again for persistent fouling.
Sammy did well. There was once when Gronkjaer skipped past the challenges of both Josemi and Carra and then it was Hyypia who came in with a last-ditch tackle. Contained the aerial threat of Emile Heskey very well and was on top of the contest most of the time.
Carra played well again but Rafa decided to switch him to left side of the central defence in the 2nd half because he thought Hyypia's longer legs will help in case Josemi fails to stop the runs of Gronkjaer and Gray. Strong in the tackle and even dribbled past three Birmingham players in the second forty-five.
This was probably Djimi's weakest performance in recent weeks. Not because he was poor yesterday but because he was outstanding in the last few matches. Looked nervous at times but did well to provide width down the left especially when the Reds injected more urgency in their play.
Frustrating.. At times, he showed good technique and ability to get away from a challenge and at times, he sloppily gives away the ball and showed too much of the ball to an opponent. Missed the chance to give Liverpool the lead when he did a rugby conversion from close range when probably a less-powerful effort would suffice.
Didi's pace or the lack of it rather was exposed when Birmingham's workman-like midfield closed him down. He did have a decent game but it wasn't good enough. Like Garcia, the German should have scored when a superb dummy by Harry Kewell put him through on goal but his shot was straight at Maik Taylor.
After a nice rest in midweek when he played for only a minute, Xabi was back in the starting eleven. He displayed his superb range of passing yet again but try as he might he couldn't conjure anything to help the Reds earn the points.
John Arne Riise
John almost scored with a header that flashed wide of the post. It had to be noted that everytime they played a long ball, the Norwegian's head was the target and he did well winning most of the aerial challenges. But he provided little of what an attacking winger should do.
Showed some good movement, nice footwork and technique on the ball. But he had to get into the game more. He seemed to be missing from the pitch at times. He did had a decent match but it wasn't good enough if your name is Harry Kewell. Moved to left wing after Mellor's introduction but still couldn't do his magic. 'What magic?' one might ask.
Florent Sinama Pongolle
Flo Po's first start of the Premiership campaign this season and he wasted the chance to impress. Like a certain team-mate, the striker failed to spot players in other positions and tried to dribble himself. And most of the times, he dribbled his way into trouble and gave the ball away. At least, that certain team-mate of his had the ability to bring the ball into the box and create problems for the opposing defence.
Some fans weren't happy when the predominantly defensive Steve Finnan was brought on in place of Sinama Pongolle. But the substitution was a good one because at least unlike the player who played at right midfield before him and the player he replaced, he didn't give away the ball cheaply.
Neil came on for his first Premiership appearance of the season. He didn't had the chance to test his finishing skills despite working hard and trying to make his presence felt.
Igor probably deserved a chance to play from the start yesterday considering his Man of the Match performance against Deportivo in midweek. He came on too late to change the course of the game yesterday but he almost scored with a header in the last minute of the match.
Manager Steve Bruce on the match: "I am very proud of my players. We have had a tough time of late, a really tough time. But you can see that even a club of Liverpool's size and stature, when they are without their two centre-forwards, struggle. We have been like that the past seven or eight weeks and for me at this level you are only as good as your strikers."
"But all credit to my players because they have stuck at it. We have deserved a little bit of luck because it has been so difficult over the past few weeks. I hope this result now gives the lads a lift. We have drawn six games this season and if we had won two or three of those then we would be where we want to be. But I am now confident that we will now improve."
Steve Bruce on the penalty incident: "As far as I'm concerned the ball has hit him on the elbow. It would have been harsh because the workrate and application of the players was excellent, but today it went for us."
Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez on the match: "We still had clear opportunities to score, but it's just about luck. We've now got two months with the same players and we need to work hard and prepare the team as best we can. But I am not thinking about the transfer window. I am only thinking how to prepare for the next game. This result was frustrating for me, the players and the supporters because although we had the chances, we didn't score and they scored from a small mistake from us."
"For myself the supporters and the players it is very frustrating. We had many clear chances with the best to Luis Garcia and Hamann but didn't score. We made one mistake and they scored. We went to sleep for two seconds and lost concentration. That was enough. We must concentrate for the whole game and we will learn from that. When you have chances you need to score from them and Luis Garcia and Hamann will be disappointed they didn't score but you might say it was good goalkeeping and a case of bad luck."
Rafa Benitez on the penalty incident: "The players said we should have had a penalty because it was hand-ball but if the referee doesn't see it there's not a lot you can do about it."