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Page last updated at 15:56 GMT, Saturday, 26 April 2008 16:56 UK

Birmingham 2-2 Liverpool

By Mandeep Sanghera

Alex McLeish was annoyed by his side's defending

Birmingham let a two-goal lead slip against Liverpool as they were denied a crucial win in their relegation battle.

Mikael Forssell lashed in a shot at the far post to put the Blues ahead, with Sebastian Larsson's exquisite long range free-kick adding to their lead.

But Peter Crouch guided in a shot to haul the Reds back into the game.

And as Liverpool penned the Blues back, Yossi Benayoun equalised with a deflected header, which all-but secures fourth spot for the Anfield side.

The point moves them nine ahead of fifth-placed Everton, who have three games left but an inferior goal difference.

Liverpool made nine changes to the team which drew 1-1 with Chelsea in the Champions League in midweek, although there was only one change from the second string side which beat Fulham last week.

There was little in the way of goalmouth action in the early stages but Birmingham slowly increased their level of urgency.

Rafael Benitez was heartened by Liverpool's fight

Olivier Kapo showed some good skill to get to the byline, only to power in a cross which everyone missed when he was better placed to pick out a team-mate.

James McFadden did not make the same mistake when he teased John Arne Riise to give himself space to cross for Forssell, who chested the ball down and fired in a shot.

Crouch's low, long-range effort forced Maik Taylor into a scrambling save but Birmingham held on to their lead going into the interval.

Liverpool tried to raise their game in the second half but their play lacked a cutting edge as they struggled to pierce the resolute defence of the home side.

The Reds lacked a player with the creative mould of ex-Everton striker and Birmingham playmaker McFadden and he had a hand in his side's second goal.

The Scot was brought down by Martin Skrtel and Larsson curled in the set-piece from 30-yards, with Radhi Jaidi stood in front of keeper Jose Reina, putting him off.


Crouch sidefooted the Reds back into the game after ex-Blues winger Jermaine Pennant's good work to set up a nervous finish at St Andrews.

Andriy Voronin and Benayoun each went close for the visitors with Liverpool forcing their opponent on to the backfoot.

Pennant was a key figure in Liverpool's comeback as he started exerting the same influence as McFadden.

And Birmingham finally buckled when Benayoun levelled with a header which went in after Jaidi's deflection.

Birmingham boss Alex McLeish:
"My feelings are a little bit mixed. I'm angry, particularly with the first goal we let in. There was a bit of naivety and it cost us dearly.

"Their second was a bit scrappy but they had the smell of blood.

"We didn't throw away two points but Liverpool earned it. But what I did get was a great reaction from the players after the loss to Aston Villa."

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez:
"The team was controlling the game in the first half but we conceded a goal that changed things a bit.

"The second goal gave them more hope and we needed to score and did so.

"We scored the second goal with a bit of luck but we created enough chances to win. The players showed character and quality."

Birmingham: Maik Taylor, Kelly, Jaidi, Ridgewell (Queudrue 77), Murphy, Larsson, Muamba, Nafti, Kapo (McSheffrey 77), Forssell (Zarate 87), McFadden. Subs Not Used: Doyle, Jerome.

Booked: Murphy, Nafti.

Goals: Forssell 34, Larsson 55.

Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Hyypia, Skrtel, Riise (Insua 64), Pennant, Plessis, Lucas, Benayoun, Crouch, Voronin.
Subs Not Used: Itandje, Gerrard, Kuyt, Carragher.

Booked: Voronin.

Goals: Crouch 63, Benayoun 76.

Att: 29,252

Ref: Peter Walton (Northamptonshire).

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Birmingham's James McFadden on 7.58. (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

see also
Premier League as it happened
26 Apr 08 |  Premier League
Saturday's football photos
26 Apr 08 |  Football
How to watch Match of the Day
08 Oct 07 |  Match of the Day

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