|Saturday 8th May 2004 (5.30pm)
St Marys Stadium, Southampton
BIRMINGHAM CITY 0-3 LIVERPOOL
|After this game: Pos 4th Pl 37 Pts 59|
|MATCH REPORT - Birmingham City 0-3 Liverpool|
Gerard Houllier saw his Liverpool side take an iron grip on the one remaining Champions League place.
Goals from Michael Owen, Emile Heskey and Steven Gerrard were enough to secure a welcome victory at Birmingham.
It means Liverpool are six points clear of sixth-placed Newcastle, although the Magpies have two games in hand.
The matter could be settled next Saturday when the sides meet at Anfield with Aston Villa's hopes also fading.
Liverpool boss Houllier has endured a difficult time this season but his team looked a class above their opponents at St Andrews.
Birmingham were keen to end their home campaign on a high note but have now gone seven matches without a win. To make matters worse skipper Kenny Cunningham was sent off in the second half for bringing down Gerrard when he was through on goal.
Liverpool controlled the game from the off and carved out a good chance in the ninth minute when Danny Murphy released Heskey. He saw his shot from an acute angle go across the face of the goal and wide with Owen waiting in vain.
It was a good spell of pressure by Liverpool and Heskey saw another shot from the edge of the area deflected to safety.
Then Sami Hyypia moved upfield and tried a shot from distance, only for his effort to go over the top.
Birmingham almost took the lead in the 21st minute when Clinton Morrison turned quickly in the box and fired in a shot that Reds goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek did well to turn over.
Play switched down the other end and Owen wriggled clear in the area but Blues keeper Ian Bennett emulated Dudek with a fine save.
However the England striker put Liverpool ahead in the 28th minute with a finish that defined his predatory instincts. He latched on to marvellous ball from Heskey to clip a shot into the corner for his 15th league goal of the season.
Birmingham were rattled but broke back in the 37th minute when Mikael Forssell advanced into the area, only for Jamie Carragher to make a timely challenge.
Birmingham manager Steve Bruce decided to keep things as they were at the start of the second half despite the one-goal deficit. He was no doubt looking for his team to put the shackles on Owen, who looked close to his best.
Not only that but Liverpool had got a grip of midfield in the first half.
Stan Lazaridis got away down the left for Birmingham after 50 minutes but his cross only found the arms of Dudek.
But Liverpool extended their lead in the 52nd minute with a thunderous shot from Heskey after Gerrard had cleverly laid the ball into his path.
Liverpool striker Heskey, linked with a summer move to Birmingham this week, again got clear down the right after 58 minutes but chose the wrong option.
Instead of trying his luck on goal from a good position he tried to pick out Harry Kewell, only to over-hit his approach.
Birmingham continued to make a decent fist of it but were reduced to 10 men in the 64th minute. Cunningham was given a straight red card by referee Steve Dunn as he held back Gerrard as the England midfielder raced down the middle.
Heskey should have added a third for Liverpool in the 72nd minute but steered the ball wide following a cross from Owen.
It was then Owen's turn to be wasteful when Gerrard played the ball in. He got away from Bennett, only to miscontrol the ball at the last minute.
Liverpool, however, made it 3-0 in the 85th minute when Gerrard knocked the ball home from an acute angle after a cross-field pass from Murphy.
Birmingham City: Bennett , Tebily , Cunningham , Upson , Clapham , Johnson , Savage , Clemence , Lazaridis , Forssell , Morrison
Subs: Doyle , Hughes , John , Cisse , Taylor
Sent Off: Cunningham (64) - Professional Foul
Liverpool: Dudek , Finnan , Hyypia , Carragher , Riise , Murphy, Gerrard, Hamann , Kewell , Heskey , Owen
Subs: Baros , Pongolle , Biscan , Cheyrou , Bernardi
Ref: D Gallagher (Oxfordshire).
The BBC's Mike Ingham reports
All audio and video requires RealPlayer and is from the BBC unless otherwise stated.
|Match Report filed: 8th May 2004|