The Reds came back to earth with a bump after UEFA glory on Thursday. A sorry display at St Andrews left the Reds without a win despite Michael Owen grabbing his 128th Liverpool goal. Sami Hyypia also made his 200th appearance for the club in the match but the side as a whole lacked shape and that desire to win.
Michael Owen started the game on the bench as Baros got a rare start along side Heskey up front. With Gerrard and Diouf suspended Murphy was pushed out right with Diao and Hamann central and Cheyrou left. Djimi Traore moved\r\nto the centre of defence with the injured Henchoz missing the game. The home side got the game underway and had a good chance within a minute but they headed the chance over the bar without troubling Dudek.
The Reds first chance came after four minutes from a corner, forced by Milan Baros after good work on the right. Riise played the corner to Carragher who shot way over the bar. The Reds had started quite brightly and Baros collected the ball on five minutes on the right hand side yet again and this time ran in field. As he neared the edge of the area and shaped to shoot he was brought down by Savage. Danny Murphy stepped up to take the free kick but it sailed high over the bar.
It wasn't all the Reds attacking though as Riise had to sweep up an opportunity on eight minutes as Birmingham threatened to break through the defence. The next attack saw Heskey make a forceful run down the right side before squaring the ball. The ball was deflected out into the middle of the area by the keeper but as Murphy shaped to hit the all goalwards Clemence slid in to just nip the ball of his foot. Hamann then hit the clearance on goal but saw his shot blocked.
Cheyrou had a header just off target, although saved by the keeper on seventeen minutes from a Carragher shot and then a minute later Riise should have done better when Hamann threaded a lovely through ball but the shot went way way over the bar. Birmingham were digging deep and making a fight of the game and starting to win more of the ball. Mid way through the half the home side should have scored but Jeff Kenna somehow managed to hit his shot over the bar from four yards.
The home side did take the lead though after thirty three minutes though through Stephen Clemence. Robbie Savage hit a 40 yard left sided free kick into the box and Clemence got in front of his marker, Carragher and left Dudek with no chance.
The goal did spark a little revival from the Reds who had started to lose their way in the game at this point. The next move saw Baros hold the ball up well before feeding Murphy on the right edge of the area but his shot across the keeper also went past the far post. Four minutes later and Riise whipped in a superb cross from the right but keeper Vaesen was allowed to claim the ball too easily as no Red showed enough desire to win the ball.
The second half got underway as Diao and Murphy played the ball initially and within three minutes of the re start the Reds should have had a penalty. Cheyrou made a good run on to a ball in the area and as he shaped to cross, Laziridis slid in and brought him down. The ball clearly flicked off Cheyrou last. The referee bottled the decision however and awarded a\r\ncorner kick to the Reds. Not only did he miss the penalty but also got the resultant decision wrong.
Christophe Dugarry got himself booked on fifty three minutes for elbowing Traore although how much of it was actually intentional is another story but kept up the bizarre decisions the referee kept making. A minute later and the Reds were grateful to Jerzy Dudek for getting Hyypia out of a poor back pas by charging out of his goal quickly to clear any danger.
Hamann hit a good low free kick on fifty five minutes but hit it straight at Keeper Vaesen. The Reds were struggling to really keep the game going and were always looking slower to the loose ball and on fifty seven minutes Traore didn't pass across Dudek enough and the Reds keeper nearly fluffed his lines and only just managed to get rid of the ball before Morrison closed in.
Michael Owen was brought on for Jamie Carragher on sixty two minutes and the move seemed to unsettle the Reds as no communication seemed to come on with the change. The shape went at this moment for the rest of the game although it got even worse later on. Diao was pushed to a kind of right back position although he didn't always seem to realise he had to stay there and often ventured forward still as the Reds lost their head a bit. On sixty three minutes Diao was lucky not to concede a penalty as he brought down Laziridis just inside the box. Thankfully the Birmingham man was going away from the area and the referee missed the foul.
Birmingham doubled their lead on sixty seven minutes with a superb move. Hamann was fouled in the centre circle by a late challenge by Laziridis which should have been booked but as the Reds were moving forward the referee rightly played on. The move broke down and the home side broke. They broke down the left side where no defenders could be seen and as they cut in and Traore moved out to meet them they moved the ball across the area for Morrison to steam in ahead of Hamann and leave Dudek with no chance.
The Reds kind of woke up a little more again after the goal and three minutes after it Murphy had a shot on goal but it was a little soft and went harmlessly through to the keeper. The Reds did grab a lifeline on seventy six minutes though through Michael Owen. Murphy tried a fancy flick on the left side which didn't come off but credit to Murphy who fought his way back to win the ball again and in an instant looked up and threaded a ball through to Owen who calmly finished.
The game really should have become a siege on the Birmingham goal at this point but without any real shape or width the Reds filed to pressurise much. Cheyrou was replaced by Mellor on eighty three minutes but the move only caused more confusion for the Reds who now had four strikers on the pitch. None of them seemed to have much clue as to how they were supposed to play and merely lost out up front as the midfield had disappeared.
Birmingham nearly had a great chance with two minutes left after a free kick from the Reds deep in the opposition half broke down but Dudek was off his line quick to clear the danger. Salif Diao was booked in the final minute as he went 100% for a tackle. Sadly the Reds had been lacking this kind of tougher tackle throughout the game.
All in all a very sorry Reds performance. The stats suggest the Reds created a few chances whilst Birmingham scored with their only on target shots but that clouds the picture. The Reds lacked bite, shape and width in this fixture and after a good performance on Thursday its a corner turned back the other way again.
MotM : Djimi Traore - On a depressing day Traore looked calm and collected at the back and always in control of things.