LIVERPOOL: Steven Gerrard’s controversial penalty earned Liverpool a 2-2 Premier League draw with Birmingham City here at Anfield on Monday after the visitors had earlier fought back to take the lead.
Gerrard, who came off the bench following a groin problem, rescued a point from the penalty spot after David Ngog went down under Lee Carsley’s challenge in the penalty area, with the furious Blues insisting the striker had dived. But the Reds remain seventh in the table with manager Rafael Benitez still facing intense pressure.
However, for once, Benitez’s position after Liverpool had dropped points at home was not the major post-match talking point with Carsley accusing Ngog, who had opened the scoring, of an “embarrassing case of cheating” in securing the spot-kick.
Benitez admitted Ngog had told him that maybe
he should not have
been awarded a penalty but insisted Liverpool deserved more than a point. “We
had so many chances and plenty of possession, at the end we can talk about the penalty — whether it was or was not — but we deserved to win because we had so many opportunities,” said the Spaniard.
Newly-promoted City had led at the break after goals from Christian Benitez and Cameron Jerome cancelled out Ngog’s opener. The Reds went into the game on the back of six defeats in eight matches but Ngog looked to have set them on their way to victory with his early effort. But Ecuador international Benitez pulled Birmingham level with a close-range header — his first goal in English football — before Jerome gave the visitors a shock lead with a superb strike. With Gerrard only being on the bench and Fernando Torres not making the squad, it was City who were the first to threaten with Lee Bowyer’s shot flying over the bar. However, 12 minutes in, and despite two fine Hart saves, Liverpool went ahead. But midway through the first half, Birmingham drew level from a simple free-kick knocked into the area.
James McFadden floated the ball in and Roger Johnson and Scott Dann both won headers before Benitez headed past Jose Reina from close range. Riera limped off to be replaced by Gerrard in the final stages of the opening period but City still took the lead when Jerome thumped in Birmingham’s second from 30 yards.
Just after the hour, Gerrard met Glen Johnson’s cross only for his header to glance the outside of the post. But he made no mistake after Ngog went down under Carsley’s challenge which, from where Walton was stood, left the referee with a tricky decision.
Gerrard shrugged off the tension and beat Hart from the spot to equalise for Liverpool. Ngog almost stole a winner with a near-post effort from Gerrard’s cross but failed to hit the target from close range before his captain lobbed over from the edge of the area.