English Premier League Roundup, Sep. 12
Liverpool had goalkeeper Pepe Reina to thank for earning his side a point in a goalless draw at Birmingham in the Premier League on Sunday.
The Spain international produced two superb saves in the first half to deny Cameron Jerome and Craig Gardner as Birmingham, which remains unbeaten after four games, had the better of a drab match which was short of clear-cut chances.
"He was outstanding," Birmingham midfielder Barry Ferguson said of Reina. "We deserved to win the game and he was the only reason we didn't."
Liverpool lacked bite up front, with Fernando Torres marshalled well by the Birmingham center backs Roger Johnson and Scott Dann, and was restricted to efforts from long range which failed to seriously test goalkeeper Ben Foster.
Liverpool moves onto five points while Birmingham, which extended its unbeaten run at St. Andrew's to 17 matches, climbs into the top five on six points.
"It was a good performance from the Birmingham team but I'm not that disappointed with our performance either," Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson said. "This is a tough place to come and play. My expectations were not that high anyway - I'd have been disappointed to lose the game but I'm certainly not disappointed to draw it."
Two Reina errors - the first against Arsenal on the opening weekend of the league season and another on international duty for Spain against Argentina in midweek - have put the former Villarreal goalkeeper under scrutiny. But he put in a faultless performance against Birmingham when many of his teammates went missing.
"I thought they were two magnificent crosses that created the headed opportunities and when they made such good contact, I feared the worst but that's why you have goalkeepers of Pepe Reina's class," Hodgson said.
Hodgson, who gave Paul Konchesky his debut after the left back's recent move from Fulham, watched his defense put under heavy pressure by Birmingham in the first half, particularly from set pieces and balls into the box.
Reina had to be at his most alert to tip around the post a header by Jerome in the 22nd minute before he turned aside a diving header from Gardner eight minutes before halftime as Liverpool's defense failed to deal with another cross, this time by Stephen Carr.
Liverpool's only effort in the opening period came through a long-range Steven Gerrard volley that flew over. The England captain drew an easy save out of goalkeeper Ben Foster a minute after the break.
Dann should have done better at the other end 11 minutes later, the center back's header from a whipped free kick directed into the ground and bouncing over the bar.
With Torres struggling to hold onto possession, Liverpool provided little threat up front although Birmingham also started to run out of ideas in attack in the final 20 minutes.
Gardner, Birmingham's top scorer this season with three goals from midfield, had the last real opportunity of the game after an error by Gerrard, but his 25-yard shot was wide.