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Reds salvage draw with Birmingham


Liverpool had keeper Pepe Reina’s heroics to thank for salvaging them a point against Birmingham in an English Premiership soccer match last night.

Reina pulled off superb reaction saves to keep out firm headers from Cameron Jerome and Craig Gardner as the Reds struggled to cope with the home side.

Fernando Torres had an angled shot blocked away by Blues keeper Ben Foster in a rare chance for the visitors.

The Reds were more dangerous when Raul Meireles came on to make his debut late on but were fortunate to get a point.

The extent of Birmingham’s dominance will have them ruefully regretting they had to settle for a draw which extended their unbeaten home run of Premier League matches to 17.

A lethargic and lacklustre Liverpool side will, in contrast, breathe a sigh of relief at a hard-earned point courtesy mainly of Reina.

Reina was at fault when he allowed Arsenal a late equaliser in Liverpool’s opening game of the season and made an embarrassing mistake in Spain’s midweek 4-1 defeat in Argentina on a rare international outing.

But, after Torres horribly mistimed a shot from Glen Johnson’s low cross, Reina proved Birmingham’s nemesis with the type of saves with which he is normally associated.

He dived low to his right and scooped away a powerful Jerome header after Lee Bowyer’s pinpoint cross as the home side began to take a grip of the game.

Birmingham finished an impressive ninth last season and the qualities behind their achievement were firmly on display against a lethargic Liverpool.

Manager Alex McLeish has built a committed team who press the opposition high up the pitch in a controlled and disciplined manner, while they make sure they remain a secure defensive unit.

Their work ethic and determination can overwhelm an opposition and that would have been the case for Liverpool had it not been for Reina.

The Reds keeper was again his side’s saviour when he punched the ball off Jerome’s head as the Blues striker seemed set to get on the end of a Larsson cross before his best save of the match.

Blues midfielder Craig Gardner ran ummarked on to the end of a whipped in Stephen Carr cross and directed a firm downward header which Reina somehow got a hand to and kept out.

Liverpool looked devoid of ideas and desire, although Birmingham were failing to make their superiority count with Scott Dann seeing a free header bounce over as the Midlands side spurned another chance.

The Reds eventually rose from their stupor and Gerrard played in Torres, who chose to shoot from an acute angle instead of crossing for his team-mate, and saw his shot blocked away by keeper Ben Foster.

But, at the other end, a backtracking Jerome put another header wide and, while Liverpool looked more threatening when Raul Meireles came on to make his debut for them, they showed manager Roy Hodgson has plenty of work to do to improve their fortunes.

And, even though victory may have eluded the home side, they kept up their unbeaten start to the season and remain unbeaten in the league against Liverpool in nine matches. —BBC Sport

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