BIRMINGHAM, September 13 – Birmingham City extended their impressive unbeaten Premier League record at St Andrew's to 17 matches with their 0-0 draw with Liverpool on Sunday, but missed an opportunity to create deeper problems for Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson.
This was the seventh draw between the two sides in as many meetings, but only the superb form of Spain international Pepe Reina enabled Liverpool to return home with something to show for such a below par performance, as their unimpressive start to the new campaign continues.
Birmingham manager Alex McLeish will certainly spend much of the week trying to work out how his impressive team, even without injured new loan signing Alexander Hleb, failed to record a victory that they fully deserved.
These are worrying times for Hodgson as he tries to re-establish Liverpool’s Premier League credibility.
This latest disappointment leaves his team seven points behind Chelsea and there are few signs they are capable of reclaiming the Champions League place they relinquished to Spurs last season.
They were second best for embarrassingly lengthy periods and his only consolation is that Birmingham did not punish them enough to reflect their domination.
Hodgson has been preaching that it will take time for him to mould the team at Anfield into his own image, but he will have been alarmed by the amount of work that needs doing on the evidence of an opening 45 minutes in which Liverpool were thoroughly outclassed.
It would not have been a travesty if Birmingham had headed to the dressing rooms at half-time with a three-goal advantage.
Hleb, on loan from Barcelona, failed to recover from a knee injury suffered playing for Belarus last week and other new signing Jean Beausejour was also left out of the squad, while Nikola Zigic was only introduced as an 89th-minute substitute as McLeish relied heavily on the side that performed so well for him last season.
The only reason they were denied victory their performance merited was the form of Liverpool ‘keeper Reina. His was the one area of the team which functioned correctly.
One punch prevented Cameron Jerome from converting at the near post. His earlier save from the Birmingham striker’s header, following Lee Bowyer’s cross, was of the highest order, palming the ball away with a strong right hand after it bounced dangerously in front of him.
Jerome said the save showed why Reina ranked as one of the world’s best keepers. "He’s up there with the best," Jerome told Sky Sports.
Reina’s save low to his right, to prevent Craig Gardner’s header from finding the target from eight yards was even more impressive and Birmingham continued to fritter away chances.
Scott Dann somehow headed over the bar from a similar range, after Sebastian Larsson’s free-kick found him completely unmarked.
If the contribution of one of his Spanish contingent would have been reassuring, Hodgson will be perplexed by the lack of impact from another high profile member of the World Cup winning squad.
Fernando Torres, even though he was rested against Argentina last week, cut a sullen figure, indulged in one spiteful bout of arguing with his own team mates and mustered one shot, which Ben Foster beat away at the near post without too much discomfort.