Rafa disappointed with result

Birmingham City continue to be a bogey team for European Champions Liverpool, although there is a slight improvement this season to last. Birmingham managed to beat Liverpool both home and away last season, this season they’ve managed two draws. Last night they left it late to get their equaliser, two minutes of normal time remaining, and survived what looked sure to be a dream return for Fowler until a linesman’s flag brought celebrations to an end.

Rafael Benítez was unhappy to say the least: “I am very, very disappointed with the result. When you score a first goal you need to score the second one and finish the game, particularly when you are against 10 players. You need to control the game and create the chances to score the second goal.”

Liverpool created the chances, but as Rafa explained, they wouldn’t go in: “We created chances and their goalkeeper was again fantastic, but we needed to create more clear chances for scoring the second goal. As a manager you are disappointed if you don’t create chances, but if Garcia had scored a second goal or Kewell or Alonso had put their chances in then it would be different.”

And putting away chances is what Robbie Fowler built his reputation on.
He needs to work on the fitness levels that dropped due to him
suffering a back injury, but he’s already looking sharp enough. Once
he’s got the fitness, he’ll put the chances away: “That’s why we have
brought Fowler back. We know he needs to improve his fitness but his
movement was good and if we create the gaps then we need people to get
into those gaps. You can see sometimes he needs to be a little bit
quicker. He is working on improving, but already he gives us a lot of
things close to the box.”

The whole ground erupted, momentarily, when the Fowler shot hit the
net, but the Roy of the Rovers storylines can only go so far in real
life – maybe Fowler’s destiny is to get the winner against Chelsea this
Sunday: “It would have been a perfect ending if he scored that goal. It
would have been fantastic at the end.”

Birmingham’s reduction to ten men midway through the first half saw a
quick substitution from Bruce and for much of the game a different
outlook from the Midlands side: “When you play against a team with 10
men it is always a problem. We played well at times but sometimes we
gave them too much time to get back and get organised. We need to move
the ball around quicker. We have done a lot of good things, but not
enough. We needed to do better on the counterattacks too.”

So there’s still a lot to learn for Liverpool, but at least the cost
was two points not three, a slight but important improvement on last
season. More disappointing was that Chelsea also dropped two points
last night, and Manchester United three, something Rafa was well aware
of: “Yes, it is very disappointing, we know the other results went our
way.” Maybe if one of Liverpool’s two penalty claims had been awarded
then it would have been a different story, but Rafa says the Reds
should have won regardless of that: “Both penalties were very, very
clear. I have seen the videos, but I don’t want to talk about that. We
had enough chances not to talk about penalties.”

With all the attention on Fowler it proved a good game to bring Daniel
Agger into for his debut, and Rafa was pleased with the young new
centre-back: “Daniel Agger’s start was nervous but after that he
started to control the situation and played well with the ball and kept
a good position. He needs time to adapt to the English game. He needs
to work on his physique, he is working in the gym, but it was difficult
playing against Heskey tonight.”

Steve Bruce was delighted to steal the point but felt his side were the
better of the two before the sending off and deserved at least that
point: “I am delighted with the result, but disappointed as I thought
we were the better team until sending off. I’ve studied it and I didn’t
think it was a sending-off. But the referee’s given it, and it’s hard
enough playing against the European champions with 11 men, never mind
10.”  Daniel Agger was the victim of the tackle that led to red, but
Bruce says it was a 50-50 challenge and should have been play on: “The
ball was off the floor and both of them were tackling the ball. Yes
they were both off the floor, but the ball was off the floor. Both
players were off the floor. We will appeal.”

Bruce says that Birmingham got a little bit of luck, at the same time
as bemoaning their lack of luck: “You need a bit of luck sometimes, and
maybe it shone on us. But we deserved it. We had more than enough other
problems before the sending off. So to hang on like that was excellent.
Since the debacle at Manchester City, we have picked up and improved.
This result can turn the corner for us, and it is no coincidence we
have our top players back. So the worry is that we have lost some again
while we were looking the better team. But if we can keep this up I am
sure we will be okay.”

Next up for Liverpool is a visit to champions Chelsea. Last time
Liverpool played Birmingham, their next two games were against Chelsea,
and they drew 0-0 in the Champions League before losing 4-1 in the home
league game.