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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Birmingham 0 Liverpool 7 - A Birmingham City story

It's an amazing scoreline. Arsenal did it against Middlesbrough at Highbury in the league. This recent result came in the FA Cup tie last night. The BBC opted to leave this one out of their schedule and how they must have rued that decision last night. But the scoreline not only gives the impression of a one-sided game, it came from a Birmingham performance that made Steve Bruce practically a fractured man. This manager, this team are fighting to get themselves out of relegation, to evade dropping into the Championship from where they had emerged in 2001-02 to enter the Premiership by beating Norwich City in the play-offs. Bruce did that for them, and now the fans feel the utter anguish of seeing their side play as if they had not the conviction and desire required to compete at the top. I share that anguish for the fans because they have the manager and the players to do just that, and have been doing so for the past three seasons, four including the current one.

Liverpool played very well, passing and movement, better control of the ball, and more execution in front of goal, plus we were glad to see Mohamed Sissoko play after excellent treatment by hospital staff in Portugal and that in Liverpool, and response from our own medical staff and that of Benfica, whose own club doctor acted as translator in hospital and who made initial contact on occasion to monitor Sissoko's progress. Yet I was concerned the wretched league fixtures would pay to hinder Liverpool, as recent history has swayed mostly in favour of the home side at St Andrews. Yes, Birmingham played later on against Spurs and held very well, only conceding to two moments where Mario Melchiot's involvement was something to be desired. Unfortunately his involvement, or lack of, was key in yesterday's game, and he wasn't the only one.

Bruce had to field a team without Matthew Upson, Muzzy Izzet, Emile Heskey, Jiri Jarosik, Chris Sutton, players who can be influential. Stan Lazaridis is one who worried me when we played Birmingham, he likes to run down the wings quite skillfully, but he was to remain on the bench throughout the match. The Birmingham player for me who stood out was Jermaine Pennant, and I was worried his pace and crossing would ease past the somewhat hapless Djimi Traore, and Pennant did threaten well on the wings, sometimes crossing, sometimes cutting in, the only thing is he found Liverpool in numbers behind the ball. Maik Taylor is a keeper I've admired for his agility, many times keeping goal excellently, somewhere on par with Newcastle's Shay Given, but he was left horribly exposed. Those are the only two of credit last night. When you view six of the goals, they were six occasions out of many where Birmingham defended poorly.

Goal no.1 - Sissoko nodded on freely, young Marcus Painter, approximately 6ft, at left-back, was left with Peter Crouch behind and Sami Hyypia in front as Martin Taylor had Hyypia in sight and then ballwatched.

Goal no.2 - Gerrard played in a cross that bounced by the penalty spot, Crouch stealing in without challenge between Martin Taylor and Kenny Cunningham to nod down, Maik Taylor almost denying it but it crept underneath him and in.

Goal no.3 - Crouch controls a throw, touches it to Gerrard, he knocks it down the wing for Luis Garcia, Garcia cuts inside Martin Taylor and outmuscles him and Kenny Cunningham then threads a touch to the advancing Crouch to score. Melchiot was right near the edge of the box and made no movement whatsoever towards either Liverpool player. He should have come across once Garcia had beaten off Taylor.

Goal no.4 - Xabi Alonso touched to Steve Finnan, Finnan passed towards Garcia, Garcia dragged Oliver Tebily (on at half-time for Martin Taylor) and dummied, Gerrard ran inside Painter to collect the loose ball, a hole in the defence, Cunningham has to then come across, Fernando Morientes (on for Crouch) waiting between Cunningham and Melchiot, Gerrard passes across to Morientes, Melchiot hasn't sensed Morientes' position therefore has STILL not moved, Morientes taps in easily.

Goal no.5 - This was unfortunate for Birmingham while at the same time ferocious to have seen. John Arne Riise was back too, and how, unleashing a fierce trademark hammer of a shot from 20-25 yards that Maik Taylor did well to get a hand to. The Birmingham fans applauded the effort.

Goal no.6 - Throw in over by the left, Harry Kewell collects and turns his marker well, dummies Melchiot then cuts down to send a low ball across that Tebily should have moved to and dealt with, but instead he remained on the spot, therefore, having misjudged the ball's path, aimed a toe rather than a foot at it and it came off into the goal.

Goal no.7 - Tebily's OG was penultimate, this compounded the evening for the home side. Djibril Cisse, on for Gerrard, threatened Painter then cut to his right to fire a low shot that had a minute deflection off Painter's boot and squirmed under Taylor's body.

Birmingham did threaten Liverpool. Pennant's ball across almost met Mikael Forssell but for Jamie Carragher's intervention. Forssell had a shot on goal but was at a good hand level for Pepe Reina to beat away. David Dunn made attempts to dribble through and shoot. But with a 4-5-1 formation that left Forssell against a reputable defence, said to be the best at the moment, wasn't right, he needed another with him. Pennant, Stephen Clemence, Dunn, Damien Johnson and Jamie Clapham made some progress getting forward and gaining corners but other than that Forssell received little service. I would have looked for Clapham at left-back with Lazaridis at left wing to start with, unless he isn't fully fit. Bruce had to use Neil Kilkenny for Dunn then his son Alex for Johnson, as Johnson looked to be heading for a dismissal after being booked previously, otherwise I imagine he would have stayed on.

I felt the whole team, other than Forssell up front, Pennant and Taylor, were out of sorts from the beginning. I felt the fans were behind the team and Bruce for this tie, perhaps push their side for an incredible voyage into the semi-finals, even when they were 0-2 down. Even at half-time I felt we would face a rejuvenated Birmingham side with little to lose, perhaps gain a goal back to boost confidence. But they lacked urgency, almost as if they had given up when the actual breakthrough for that needed goal wouldn't materialise realistically or quickly enough. Morientes' goal made way for damaged spirits.

To be a fly in the Birmingham dressing room at half time to hear how Bruce would aim to encourage the players to turn the game. He walked off towards the tunnel like a man who had to ponder that unknown £125,000 answer with all life lines depleted. His facial and body stillness as goals went in in the second half made a louder message than words could. At full time, he walked amongst a gauntlet of stewards and police officers towards the tunnel as nearby fans beckoned to him and called for him to resign. Bruce pondered over it all in the post-match interview:

"Sometimes football kicks you in the teeth and certainly that is the biggest one I have taken. I'm shell-shocked, disappointed and humiliated. It was men against boys, a result possibly waiting to happen with the patched up side we have got. It's possibly the worst night I have ever experienced certainly in management, and with the players there are a lot of dented egos in the dressing room, and my ego is dented as well. There is very little you can say to them. They are absolutely humiliated."

As I said, there are two or three who can possibly be exempted from blame. When you do not have available certain players who have the playability to move or play others in, then there is potentially a drop in confidence and someone somehow has to restore it for the interim. Birmingham City are out of the cup, to play for next season. What is now key is their focus in the league, the one that really counts, and on paper it's daunting. Away to Man Utd, home to Chelsea and Bolton after. They are three points from safety and Midlands rival West Brom, just three points. West Brom face Spurs away, Liverpool at home then another Midlands rival in Aston Villa at Villa Park. But over Birmingham's shoulder are Portsmouth on equal points, who face Arsenal at home, Fulham away then home against Blackburn.

If I was Steve Bruce, I would bring the players in today for a big discussion, review the game and point out what went wrong and ensure it is not repeated. Such a game like that of last night must hit very deep, for a team to take in, bond and remember to hold a tighter structure when playing next. Be it Man Utd or Mackton Utd.



Blogger Steve said...

West Ham on a brilliant unbeaten run. Play a team at home who cant score in a brothel and Bham beat 5-0.
Result?...West Ham get hammered!.
Reason?. They decided to omit 5 first team squad players.

Birmingham have TEN first team squad players out (Including regulars :- Heskey, Sutton, Gray, Upson, Butt, Jarosik and Izzet) and have four players playing with injuries or are unmatch fit having just returned from injury.
Result?... Bham get slaughtered!
Reason....Its not rocket science!!

3/22/2006 12:50 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

Steve, would you agree that facing a side like Liverpool, who seem to have found a scoring touch recently, with a number of first team players unavailable, that those remaining, like Forssell, Dunn, Pennant, perhaps Johnson and Clemence, and particularly with Cunningham and Melchiot, could at least keep a reduced defeat to something like 0-3 or 1-3?


3/22/2006 1:40 pm

Blogger SKG said...

I posted an article after the Benfica defeat called "Lack of goals could destroy Liverpool's season".

Liverpool have now scored 15 goals in their last 3 games. Enough said!

3/22/2006 2:07 pm

Anonymous IL-Gooner said...

I watched the Birmingham-Spurs match. It was boring and scrappy, but Birmingham were the better team in the first half. However, when Heskey went out, they just collapsed. Apart from Pennant, they didn't have any player capable or confident enough to do something with the ball. Lazaridis looked a shadow of his former self. He's so slow now, and he's not intelligent enough to realise it and stop trying to run past players. However, whatever the problems, however good the other side is, you should always have enough pride not to be run over. 7-0 is a despicable result, whether you're Everton, Boro or Birmingham. 10 players injured is not a good excuse. Arsenal has played virtually the whole season with a long injury list, yet we still have enough pride to believe we should win every match. Birmingham should have enough pride to at least put up a fight.

Funny thing. Since being outclassed at Highbury, Liverpool started playing their best football since the Owen-Fowler-McManaman era. Maybe they looked at the way Henry, Hleb and Cesc played and told Benitez: "We're done with trying to be the next Valencia. We want to be a Barcelona". If so, it's very good for football. Now we just have to wait for Mourinho to come around. :)

3/22/2006 4:40 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

I doubt Liverpool took such inspirations from the Arsenal game, Anon. It's a coincidence we have been scoring well since the Highbury match, however, I could say Arsenal took inspiration from their defeat at Ewood Park but I don't believe in that.

I do take note of your point about having enough pride, why I asked Steve the question. I felt the Birmingham side was one who could have kept the score down, if they had to suffer defeat at all.


3/22/2006 5:00 pm

Blogger T said...

I see Steve's point... but I tend to agree more with Redsman and Il-gooner when they question whether there is any plausible excuse for a 7 nil defeat at home when you are a Premiership club.

For me its more than injuries that are hurting Birmingham. They look to have lost their belief, which is a bad thing for a club that needs to fight to survive in the Premiership this season. Plus, Steve Bruce seems worryingly unable to inspire his fit players to put in 90 minutes of fully concentrated and committed football, with the experienced Melchiot's lapses last Sat against Spurs being the prime example. Next up for Birmingham is a trip to OT... I grimace at the prospect.

Il-gooner, I would like to think that the Pool players were influenced by the skills of the Arsenal players! But I think their goal blitz has more has to do with the lack of pressure on the team after being knocked out of the Champs league and virtually conceding second place to Man Utd, plus that the defences they have been playing against have shown a big inabilty to defend properly and with concentration.

Talking about the Pool, I just want to say that I'm more and more impressed by the play of Stevie G. He has matured as a player this season with better passing and more goals... and whereas at the start of the season I couldn't make a call between the two, I now rate him ahead of Lampard as England's best all-round CM.

SKG... I don't quite know the point you are trying to make but your attitude is great! :)

3/22/2006 11:06 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Omg! I think there is limit to arrogance. It’s this same type of self absorb arrogance (from the Arsenal team and their fans) that has made me always hate Arsenal. Trying to take credit for Liverpool’s recent run of form is probably one of the lowest points ever. Now im no Liverpool fan but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that they have a very strong midfield and have dominated a lot of matches and created a lot of chance but failed to take it. Their strikers were underperforming for a long time. Most of Liverpool strikers were proven goal scorers in the past with the likes of Morientas, Fowler and Cisse. They were probably suffering from a lack of confidence. The quality and experience was always there and it was just a matter of finding the back of the net which they have done successfully recently. It has got nothing to do with Arsenal or their performance against Arsenal. Liverpool have been linked with players like Defoe so their strikers probably knew it was about time they start scoring or they might be shipped out this summer. They have done well and I cant see how and why Arsenal should take any credit for it.

In fact I think it should be Arsenal that take some inspiration from Liverpool. I mean lets face it, at this stage last year Liverpool knocked Juve out of the Champions League…Arsenal should probably take inspiration from that. Infact they should also hope that their captain Henry takes some inspiration from Liverpool captain Gerard and sign a new deal instead of turning his back on his club like their former captain Vieira.

I never thought I would say this but…Forza Juve & Forza Vieira (For that 2 champs league matches only) :)


3/23/2006 2:13 am

Anonymous footyfan said...

Well, it was nice to see Liverpool dominate and score 7 goals..must be a huge confidence booster. Anyway, I would prefer a team to score and win by a 2 or 3 goal margin than to win 7-0 and then lose the following 4 or 5 games in a row..which comes to my point in the next paragraph.

As the saying goes...Gooners are ALWAYS GONERS:)IL-Gooner...Liverpool learning from Arsenal?
My are probably like the 1000s of Goner fans which would have NOT spoken anything or even watched a game of Arses when they were having a bad spell..I know that for a fact coz I do have some friends that support your pathethic team. Everyone was screaming, what the heck is Wenger doing..only getting kiddies, we aren't going to win anything with this crap players..etc,etc..BUT now that Arsenal are in the quarters, the SAME Goner fans have come out from their cave and have self-elected themselves as the spokesmen of football, knowing how to critise other teams and other players...just because your team has a recent spell of wins? Very typical of the Goners...

Anyway, back to the part on Liverpool trying to learn from your Goner team? What has Liverpool have to learn from a team which consist of a run-away captain(possibly another one coming up soon), cry-babies that run away at half time, players linked to be gays, dumb players getting corned by radio stations and etc.??! Liverpool has won EVERYTHING under the sun and your Goner team can probably learn a thing or two (maybe 5) on how to win a European Cup from Liverpool or even MU. You seriously make me laugh with your smart comments. Nevermind, I understand, it won't be long before you guys crash out in the quarters of the CL and then the rest of the football fans won't be able to hear from the GONERS as they would be hybernating till next season.

Cheers IL-Gooner!:)

3/23/2006 8:02 am

Blogger RedsMan said...

OK, people, this was an article on Birmingham's troubles after a hard night of football that has brought the team to a shattered form, but has now incorporated something else. Il-gooner's comments in his second para came over as tongue in cheek but I felt it was incorrect to state we gained inspiration from the Highbury defeat.

But T, I am disappointed with your comments in your third para. We hadn't spoken of pressure from being in the Champions League, we were under pressure to score in all games, regardless of the league or Europe. Had Liverpool maintained a better scoring record per game, confidence would be much higher in going through to the QF. At 1-0 down and with a lack of scoring, we were still confident we could beat Benfica. Had Liverpool been relieved of pressure to enable us to score because of going out of the Champs League, we would have then displayed much better at Highbury.

No one on behalf of the club have stated recently we have given up on 2nd place, clearly Rafael Benitez has stated we are still after 2nd place. No one would, being 2 pts behind albeit played two games more. Had a team been in the same points position in 2nd place, it would be negative to suggest giving up on the title, unless it was mathematically impossible. Man Utd are twelve points behind with a game in hand and are still focused on catching Chelsea, so clearly Liverpool are not conceding 2nd place as things stand.

Yes, we appear to have played, since the Highbury defeat, against teams who have shown questionable defensive qualities but we are lined to play them, just as much as other teams are. Before these games, nothing was said about how the opposition will defend poorly and Liverpool will score 15 goals. But here, the credit for our wins is given more to the playability of the opposition than to that of Liverpool's. On this point I refer back to the "Diaby is six foot two inches!" article, where I was spoken against for devaluing Arsenal's 7-0 win over Middlesbrough, which I had clearly not. But yet here is a clear devaluing being mentioned about Liverpool.

Sid, I agree in part with your comments, as a result of what was said. Saying Arsenal can take credit from Liverpool's scoring 15 in three games is below the belt. Further to say we have scored those goals because of no pressure after being knocked out of the Champions League and conceding 2nd place is certainly incorrect, and that surprises me where T is concerned.

Let it be said I certainly wish for Arsenal to progress and win the European Cup, I have always championed for British teams in Europe, and that doesn't change.


3/23/2006 9:53 am

Blogger T said...

Redsman, you know me well enough to know that I have no axe to grind and that I base my opinions honestly and without prejudice, so although I note your disapointment and I am sorry for that, I am also surprised and disapointed that
you have had this reaction.

You highlight the comment you made after the Boro 7-0 win, so you must remember that I agreed with your analysis that the make-up of the Boro defence really helped us. I did not view this as a clear devaluing of our victory... especially as I know you well and that this would not have been your aim, but instead you were just putting across your honestly-held opinion. I made this clear to readers of EFT who thought otherwise.

So I hope you understand that I was not trying to devalue your recent goal-blitz performances. My observation about the pressure being off after the Benifca and Arsenal defeats is only my opinion, and again I didn't say it with the intention to devalue. I'm happy that you have put across your own opinion... and as you know this is what EFT is all about... putting across opinions that may differ but always in a spirit of respect and not vindictiveness.

I note your wish for Arsenal to progress in Europe and knowing you well this is a typical sportsmanlike reaction and I thank you for it!

Sid and Footyfan... if you wish to continue to write to EFT I expect you to erase the spirit of vindictiveness that has been obvious in your comments.

3/23/2006 12:21 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

OK, having discussed with T his comments (11.06PM yesterday) in para 3, he was not intending to gloat or take credit away from Liverpool their having scored those goals. However, Il-gooner's comments were perceived, as I said earlier, as tongue in cheek, though from the outset they are taken to be 'rubbing it in' after the Highbury win over Liverpool, which he or she should not be doing. I may have had the wrong impression, il-gooner, but from your wording I feel pretty clear you were gloating. Please do comment to correct me if I am wrong.

Final note: at the end of the day, I am not concerned how we play too much as long as we get results. I want us to play well and get results, but if I had to choose, then it's results everytime.


3/23/2006 6:47 pm

Blogger T said...

Yep, thanks Redsman. I found the response yesterday surprising to put it mildly, and I guess its an example of strong support for your team making perspectives get blurred... and out of this can come misunderstandings. It was surprising because its rare for such misunderstandings to arise between us... but its not a problem because it was resolved in good spirit y'day evening.

I should add that from my perspective Sid and Footyfan are exactly the sort of people I do not want to contribute to EFT... one professing their 'hate' for AFC which was evident in comments made to me last week; the other having not taken the opportunity to apologise to GunnerPete or Redsman for comments made last week, and who also exhibits a strong anti-Arsenal sentiment.

EFT has great regular contributors like Nturtle, Blindjak, Lost Key, GunnerPete, etc... who are only interested in engaging in good-natured football discussion without any evidence of hate or spite. These are the sort of football followers we want to encourage to contribute to EFT - because they help EFT to be what we want it to be.

3/24/2006 10:09 am

Blogger Skippy said...

Well put T. We do not want contributors like Sid and Footyfan.

Please just engage in good natured football discussion.

3/24/2006 11:09 am

Anonymous Abdul said...

Hear hear. For people who wish to post comments on this site a reminder - its Elite Football Talk not 'Vexacious Football Talk'.

3/25/2006 3:48 pm

Blogger SKG said...

to all those who have posted or wish to post on our site - please listen to T and show some respect to everybody when posting comments.

this is a forum on football not a forum on how best to slag people off.

thank you.

3/25/2006 6:13 pm


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