Reds rock Blues' survival plans
Birmingham threw away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Liverpool at St Andrews in the Premier League.
By Peter Fraser
Last Updated: 26/04/08 7:00pm
Birmingham's Premier League relegation worries are set to continue as they threw away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Liverpool at St Andrews on Saturday.
Times were tense ahead of kick-off for Alex McLeish's Midlands strugglers, but nerves were also combined with a sense of optimism as Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez - who had Wednesday's UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg with Chelsea in mind - shuffled his pack.
And that optimistic outlook was rewarded as a goal from Mikael Forssell and a Sebastian Larsson free-kick sent Birmingham in front, but Peter Crouch and Yossi Benayoun struck in the second half to leave honours even.
Forssell opened the scoring in the 34th minute as he found himself in acres of space in the Liverpool 18-yard area to allow him to blast past goalkeeper Jose Reina and after the interval Birmingham doubled their advantage as dead-ball specialist Larsson superbly curled in from 30 yards.
Crouch, though, then set up an anxious last half-an-hour as the excellent Jermaine Pennant produced a cutting edge to feed the lofty striker, who fired into the bottom corner on 63 minutes.
And then 12 minutes later Lucas Leiva broke down the right to cross precisely for Benayoun and the Israeli saw his header sneak in via a deflection off Radhi Jaidi to secure the point which all but guarantees fourth spot in the table and ensures Birmingham continue to look nervously over their shoulders.
Benitez's line-up, showing nine changes from the starting XI against Chelsea in the Champions League, had plenty of possession in the early stages and were content to knock the ball around and probe for an opening.
Lucas had the first effort on target from a cross by Andriy Voronin but Blues goalkeeper Maik Taylor was able to save comfortably away to his left as he failed to make full contact.
Forssell showed good skill on the edge of the Liverpool box to manufacture half a chance for himself but his volley flew straight at Reina.
Forssell was looking the most threatening for Blues when the ball was played into his feet and good skill by the Finnish international found Olivier Kapo in space on the left of the Liverpool box.
But the former Juventus player opted to strike the ball first time and his shot flew into the side netting.
Then after 34 minutes the home side went ahead through Forssell's ninth goal of the season.
James McFadden was the creator with a teasing cross from the right flank which seemed to glance off the head of Martin Skrtel before finding Forssell unmarked at the far post, who hammered it past Reina.
Liverpool tried to retaliate and Taylor was called into meaningful action for the first time to turn aside a dipping powerful 25-yard drive from Crouch.
Benitez would have wanted a more committed performance from his side and Liverpool had most of the possession in the early stages of the second period.
But after 54 minutes St Andrews erupted after a stunning free-kick from Larsson doubled Birmingham's lead.
McFadden was brought down by Skrtel some 30 yards out and before the free-kick was taken both Riise and Hyypia complained that Jaidi was obstructing Reina.
But the keeper had no chance as Larsson's curling effort beat his dive and hit the top corner of the net.
Liam Ridgewell got up well to meet a corner from Larsson but he directed his header past the post when he should have at least hit the target.
But Liverpool gave themselves a lifeline after 62 minutes when Crouch made no mistake with a first time drive from the edge of the box after a mazy run by Pennant had created the chance.
Jaidi had a chance to restore City's two-goal advantage but headed Larsson's free-kick wide from close range.
But Liverpool were now in the ascendancy and Voronin and Benayoun both wasted decent opportunities.
The visitors were not to be denied and after 77 minutes Benayoun's deflected header brought them back on level terms.
Lucas sent over a teasing cross which Benayoun was first to react to but his header hit Jaidi and wrong-footed Taylor as it trickled into the corner of the net.