|Saturday 6th November 2004
LIVERPOOL 0-1 BIRMINGHAM CITY
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Liverpool 2-0 Charlton Athletic
Eleven months of heartache for Birmingham finally came to an end as Liverpool surrendered their 100% Anfield record in the Premiership to a team whose last away victory in the league was in December.
Birmingham boss Steve Bruce's side had lost 10 and drawn six of their previous 16 away-day outings, yet they emerged with a win courtesy of Darren Anderton's first Blues goal following his move from Tottenham.
The simple 77th-minute strike from just a yard out also ended a City goal drought that had lasted 380 minutes as Liverpool looked a pale shadow of the team that had scored a famous Champions League victory over Deportivo La Coruna in midweek.
When you have set yourself such impeccably high standards at home, as Liverpool have so far this season, you come to expect the best on every successive occasion.
But this 90 minutes was arguably the worst this campaign for the Reds, not simply because they failed to score, but the performance was patchy and lacked any cohesion.
Liverpool should have taken full advantage of a City side low on confidence and added to Bruce's woes, but they were not without their own problems, notably in attack as Milan Baros joined Djibril Cisse on the injury list.
With Cisse out for the season with a broken leg, the last thing manager Rafael Benitez needed was to have Baros also on the sidelines, the Czech international ruled out with a hamstring problem.
Benitez was forced to play Harry Kewell on his own up front, with Florent Sinama-Pongolle providing support on his first Premiership start this season.
When you are also lacking the drive and ingenuity of Steven Gerrard from midfield - he is due to return in a fortnight - then problems are bound to occur.
Liverpool, though, still had the chances in the opening period to have piled on the agony for Birmingham, but Maik Taylor and their own inept finishing proved their downfall.
Taylor initially came to the fore in the fifth minute, the Northern Ireland goalkeeper at full stretch in palming out of the swirling rain a rising drive following a fast break from the home team.
That came after John Arne Riise had headed wide a deep right-wing cross from Josemi and prior to another fine save, this time clutching off the greasy surface a low Xabi Alonso drive.
Then came the one and only opportunity for a returning Emile Heskey, back on his old stamping ground for the first time since his £6.25million summer move to City.
Damien Johnson and a fit-again Muzzy Izzet, back in the side after five weeks out with a knee injury, were the suppliers, but the latter's cross into the near post was stabbed wide and into the Kop.
After Cunningham had blocked a Sinama-Pongolle drive, Liverpool looked in danger of conceding when Julian Gray sprung Liverpool's offside trap with a measured through ball for Izzet.
But the ball skidded up off the turf and Izzet went on to collide with Chris Kirkland, coming off worse as he required treatment before continuing.
Then came the chances that should have set Liverpool apart from the visitors, only for Luis Garcia to endure the groans of the home faithful.
His first, in fairness, prompted another excellent stop from Taylor as he held onto a fierce angled drive, but he should have done so much better with the second on the half-hour.
With only Taylor to beat after a loose ball on the edge of the area had ricocheted into his path, Garcia proceeded to blaze over from 12 yards.
Following a scrappy, untidy end to the first half, it was Garcia who was then supplier 10 minutes after the restart just at a time when frustration was growing in the home camp.
Garcia delivered an exquisite ball with the outside of his right foot into the path of Dietmar Hamann to leave the German clean through, and although Cunningham was bearing down, his eventual flick was too close to Taylor who made a clean save.
With urgency growing in the Liverpool ranks, Kewell then headed over before contention arose in the 71st minute.
In a matter of seconds Izzet made goal-line clearances from Jamie Carragher and Garcia.
Within six minutes, it was City who then made the stunning breakthrough and against the run of play, instigated by a short corner between Izzet and Robbie Savage.
Matthew Upson proceeded to meet Savage's far-post cross with a downward header into the six-yard box, and after a slight deflection on the way, substitute Anderton - a 63rd-minute replacement for Stephen Clemence - tapped simply home from a yard for what proved to be an unlikely winner.Press Association
Liverpool Kirkland, Josemi, Hyypia, Carragher, Traore, Luis Garcia, Hamann (Biscan 85), Alonso, Riise (Mellor 73), Sinama Pongolle (Finnan 65), Kewell.
Subs Not Used: Diao, Dudek.
Booked: Josemi, Luis Garcia, Hamann.
Birmingham Maik Taylor, Melchiot, Cunningham, Upson, Gray, Gronkjaer (Lazaridis 63), Izzet (Clapham 88), Savage, Clemence (Anderton 63), Johnson, Heskey.
Subs Not Used: Bennett, Yorke.
Ref: U Rennie (S Yorkshire).
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|Match Report filed: 8th November 2004|