Birmingham City 1 Liverpool 1 BIRMINGHAM: It’s official: Birmingham City are Rafael Benitez’s bogy team. Despite eight opportunities, they remain the only Premier League club to have so far eluded the Liverpool manager.However, the reality of this particular draw is that the damage wrought goes far beyond just a prick to the Spaniard’s ego. It has left Benitez admitting that in the race for fourth, Liverpool’s margin of error has become nonexistent.Liverpool are four points behind Manchester City, but they have played one game more than City, Spurs and Aston Villa. With five games left, Benitez made no attempt to paint an optimistic picture. “It was not a good point,” he said. “We didn’t have any margin [of error], and now we have less. We have to believe that we can win our games, and confidence [our competitors] will lose.”Like many teams before them, Liverpool will rue the reflexes of Joe Hart, but the goalkeeper’s acrobatics in turning Maxi Rodriguez’s effort on to the bar should not be used as a fig leaf to what was a largely impotent performance. Steven Gerrard’s strike within two minutes of the restart was a rare moment of class, but it was cancelled out within 10 minutes by Liam Ridgewell.The defender’s opportunism is to be saluted, just as Liverpool’s defending is to be lambasted.Glen Johnson’s failure to guard his far post as Birmingham invaded the penalty area might not have mattered if Liverpool had not been so lacking in pizzazz, yet the fact that Fernando Torres was replaced by David Ngog after just 63 minutes offers some idea of how limited Liverpool were offensively. Punishment for a quiet performance or protecting him for Benfica on Thursday? Take your pick, but this was one of Torres’s less convincing performances. “He was really tired,” Benitez said.Gerrard, meanwhile, had been quiet until Dirk Kuyt supplied him with the sort of long-range drive the Liverpool captain drools over. Fortunately for Birmingham manager Alex McLeish – though not for his midfielder – this one was sent at top speed into Keith Fahey’s backside. But where brawn failed, brain succeeded, and when Gerrard was given the ball by Johnson immediately after the restart, he swivelled and stroked the ball into the far corner, in front of a delighted away section.Against the Liverpool of old it would surely have been a mortal blow, but with this defence nothing can be ruled out.Sure enough, James McFadden was allowed to turn in the Liverpool area and shoot left-footed to the back post, where Ridgewell seemed to bundle in past Pepe Reina. His anger was just – a bit of research would have told Johnson that Ridgewell has a tendency to appear at the back post.Telegraph, London
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