Liverpool give it all away as City's lost souls shine

Birmingham City 2 - Liverpool 0
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It would perhaps be nice of Everton's players to take the short stroll across Stanley Park this morning and pop a thank-you card through the Anfield letterbox, after Liverpool produced a display of such generosity at St Andrew's that it went way beyond the call of being merely neighbourly. Why, this was altruism itself.

It would perhaps be nice of Everton's players to take the short stroll across Stanley Park this morning and pop a thank-you card through the Anfield letterbox, after Liverpool produced a display of such generosity at St Andrew's that it went way beyond the call of being merely neighbourly. Why, this was altruism itself.

But that is grossly unfair to a Birmingham side who were great value for their first League double over Liverpool in 69 years. "We've had some great days here in the last two and a half years," said Steve Bruce, the Birmingham manager. "But I can't recall as good as one as this."

Jermaine Pennant and Emile Heskey would doubtless agree. They bore the swagger of the vindicated as the Midlanders finished the game cruising after a first half in which two goals were the least their superiority deserved. "We had a very bad game. And we don't know exactly why," admitted Rafael Benitez with the despairing look of a manager who realised a golden opportunity to close the gap to a tantalising two points on their Merseyside rivals had been squandered. Champions' League? They're having a laugh.

Indeed, if Liverpool were cheered by the lunchtime news from Goodison then they managed to conceal it with the skill of busy undertakers in a first half that saw them descend into one of those black moods that has plagued their season. They might have been expected to set off like men possessed, but in the only demons this lot appeared possessed by were those of uncertainty and lack of interest.

In contrast, Birmingham did everything but spin their heads and spew out green bile as they tore all that is supposedly holy out of their visitors. Stephen Clemence and Damien Johnson took an instant grip on midfield, with Igor Biscan and Dietmar Hamann just bystanders as blue shirts poured past them. It was Pennant and Heskey who most grabbed the eye, however, as two men with the most to prove; the former as the disgraced Arsenal loanee who has recently admitted drink-driving while disqualified and the latter as the forgotten England marksman that Liverpool let go in the summer

Pennant popped up everywhere - left, right, centre - and at least four crosses had the shaky Liverpool back four in all sorts of bother. To highlight their dominance, Birmingham racked up five corners in the first 16 minutes and all Liverpool had to hit back with - as ever - was the occasional foray by Stephen Gerrard. The otherwise anonymous Fernando Morientes should have done better when his captain's ball fizzed to his feet in the six-yard box in the 14th minute, but Maik Taylor, the Birmingham goalkeeper, deflected his feeble attempt away.

It was not so simple for Jerzy Dudek at the other end. After producing heroics to deny Pennant in a one-on-one in the 35th minute, in the very next he faced a Walter Pandiani penalty. The Uruguayan converted high into the net, capitalising on Sami Hyypia's blatant hauling down of Heskey in front of goal. Eight minutes later Julian Gray latched on to a sumptuous cross from Pennant and volleyed sweetly past Dudek.

Biscan's replacement at half-time with Vladimir Smicer, returning after a long injury, was the least Benitez could do. But Birmingham had put the shutters up and despite all Gerrard's best intentions to unpick the lock, chances for Liverpool were non-existent. All they could muster was a Jamie Carragher header that was cleared off the line by Johnson as the seconds ticked down. It was all this pathetic performance merited.

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