3.31pm: Hello and welcome to live coverage of this afternoon's draw between Birmingham City and Liverpool. Six times out of the last six these two have failed to produce a winner to date. Birmingham are organised and well-drilled. Liverpool are well-drilled and organised. But you never know, these things have to give in the end and perhaps we're in for a disorganised, badly-drilled seesawing 7-5 thriller.
3.35pm: Here are the teams: Birmingham Foster, Carr, Johnson, Dann, Ridgewell, Larsson, Ferguson, Bowyer, Gardner, McFadden, Jerome. Liverpool Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Skrtel, Konchesky, Maxi, Poulsen, Lucas, Gerrard, Jovanovic, Torres. For Liverpool Gerrard will lurk in "the hole" behind Torres/run around all over the place. Birmingham's entire team is British apart from Larsson, who has been in England for nine years os he's grudgingly admitted. Alex McLeish has told Sky Sports this is a deliberate policy to favour British players where there's a choice. Never mind that this is probably illegal under EU law, it seems to be working.
3.42pm: It is still hard not to see this as a game between one of the - ahem - big boys and an also-ran but it is a mark of Liverpool's decline that this is only notionally the case. Birmingham have signed a lot of players this summer. they are on an upward curve just as Liverpool continue to tread water under those two warring eejits in the boardroom. This is now the kind of game Liverpool will really have to play well to win, a game against one of the teams "around them", particularly at the mildewed inhospitable shed that is St Andrews. Looking forward to seeing Konchesky (never thought I'd ever write those words) and maybe even Meireles on debut later on.
3.48pm: Nicholas P Farrell points out: "I hate to be pedantic but how many caps did Steve Carr win for the Republic of Ireland?" Some, of course. But he did start at Spurs when he was 15 so we maybe we can see this as a moment to build bridges across the Irish sea. Jack Charlton gets away with calling himself "an honorary Irishman". We welcome Carr with open arms.
3.55pm: Liverpool have four English players too and will have five when Joe Cole returns. I have no idea when the last time that happened was but I'd think at least six years ago. Anyone? Of course, nothing like the days when they had all those fuming taciturn Scots. Great days, Liverpool and Scots.
3.57pm: Owen Woolcock has the perfect name for the first part of this email: "On a packed train from London to Edinburgh with sporadic internet access. The girl next to me is knitting at lightning pace, although she is young and attractive, thereby not fitting the typical knitter profile. How does one start a conversation with a pretty girl about knitting? Important test of Hodgson's version of the 4-2-3-1 formation; to return to the top four Liverpool has to beat teams like Birmingham and generate enough chances away from home. Hodgson's away form with Fulham is well known. Jovanovic has been good without being dynamic. Good chance for him to show he really can play." Why not just say the second half of all that to her. She'll love it.
3.59pm: Patrick Finch points out from Sweden: "This game will divide the locals, as Liverpool are the most visibly supported side in Eskilstuna." And Eskilstuna is, of course, where the non-British Sebastian Larsson is from.
4.00pm: And yes well done to all of you emailing in for Owen Woolcock: he could always ask her to knit him a wool... oh never mind.
1 min Birmingham kick off and immediately hoof the ball out of play deep in Liverpool left back territory. Then it's more back to front stuff towards the hulking Jerome. Should be a major tussle between him and Carragher today, neither the fleetest of foot, but lots of wrestling and jostling guaranteed. Ferguson has an early shot from miles out. It flies miles wide.
3 mins Johnson and Maxi combine quite nicely on the right without really going anywhere and that's a promising double act going forward. Ian Copestake points out: "Birmingham's Britishness has also been forced upon them by Helb's injury (go figure) and some Chilean chap awaiting permission to step foot on the island." That's what McLeish will say, via his lawyers, in The Hague.
6 mins Birmingham have had a couple of energetic thrusts down the left hand side but it's all really just hustle and bustle and looking keen and closing people down without really going anywhere. So far both Birmingham full backs have simply humped the ball high towards the corner flag in the classic style. Adrian Cooper trembles: "Paul Konchesky scares me. Do a google image search for him. It's look a cross between a rogues gallery and a list of extras for Wes Craven's the Hill Have Eyes."
9 mins cunning little ball into the box by Johnson looking for Torres, but it glides away slightly too high and behind for a goal kick. And he was offside anyway but a nice thought and always good to see Torres getting in those positions. Jack in Dublin points out: "... Jack Charlton actually was given honorary citizenship of Ireland, which means he's legally allowed a passport and all the rest thanks to the fact he "has done signal honour or rendered distinguished service to the nation." I'm pretty sure he already had those flat caps himself though." All right, but Larsson is also technically an assimilated player under Premier League rules. but you don;t see him going around fishing and doing adverts for the tourist board and buying everyone pints of Guinness.
12 mins Liverpool have their first corner. It's smuggled away by Birmingham's massed imposing defenders but more promising for Liverpool when they get out wide and open up some space. Birmingham are very strong in the middle where it's all very congested right now. Duncan Smith wonders aloud: "Does anyone know what a Woolcock does or is? Woodcock I am familiar with, and lovely it is too, but I have never heard of the former." Er, a Woolcock leches vaguely on the train and has views on Liverpool would be my guess.
13 mins Decent chance for Torres. Good work by johnson on the right. Finds some space and plays it in low but Torres snatches his shot and it's screwed wide. That might have flown in on another day. He looks a little tortured and jogs off fretting.
16 mins Great pressing by Birmingham. Yes: great pressing. As pressing goes that was great, Gardner closing down Maxi on the right and winning the ball back. That is what they do very well and Liverpool are being hustled whenever they get the ball here. McFadden then tries to pick out Jerome with a long flighted pass that Skrtel does very well to cut out. Les Brown is also worried about Owen Woolcock on that train. "I could send Owen some appropriate music from my golden oldies file: "Needles and Pins" by the Searchers "Purl of the Quarter" by Steely Dan and "Walkin the dog" by Rufus Thomas ("...she broke her needle...")" Yes, why not do that.
18 mins Dann hoofs the ball miles into the stand on the touchline without a second thought and Birmingham regroup into their muscular 4-4-2. They really are old school in their approach and very hard to beat. Down the other end Larsson almost works a shooting chance 25 yards out but Skrtel blocks it. That counts as a chanced in this game. Rob Moline has this: "The concept of British football doesn't exist; your esteemed website says it will not be inaugrated until 2 years hence, for the Olympics. So until then McFadden, Ferguson and the rest of the players, plus managers like SAF and Moyes, are dirty cheating foreigners. Tone: jest, not serious." It think it's more a state of mind.
21 mins Gerrard has been elbowed in the head by Ferguson and he's going off to get a plaster on his eye which is bleeding but he didn't make a big deal of it which was nice. Dave Woodcock isn't in any sense a phallus: "Thankyou for your kind words regarding the 'Woodcock'. You'll be surprised how many people assume it's slang for a phallus." Amazing.
23 mins My word what a save from Reina. Ferguson takes a quick free kick in midfield, plays it forward to - I think - McFadden and his cross to Jerome is headed back across goal but clawed away by the diving Reina, springing across his line and palming it away Gordon Banks-style. That was really fine goalkeeping. Could have quite easily zinged into the corner.
26 mins Birmingham have a free kick in a very dangerous position, given away by Carragher bringing down McFadden. It's right on the edge of the area. McFadden it is who steps up, pauses and very elegantly side-foots it five yards over the bar. Bit of a waste that. Ian Copestake is perhaps being sarcastic: "This game would have been perfect for Aquilani. What a shame he's not available as he would have loved all that pressing, and the hurried, physical joy of the Premiership."
29 mins A rehearsed Birmingham corner comes to nothing as the pull back from Larsson is totally telegraphed and Lucas can hack it clear. And now Lucas has taken a really heavy late tackle from Gardner right on his ankle just as he nicked the ball away and Gardner is booked for that. not vicious but it did look very painful for the mild and largely un-Brazilian Brazilian.
30 mins Gerrard gets his first sight of goal. Blasts a loose ball miles over the bar having had a milisecond to line it up. I'm not sure this role is bringing the best out of him in this kind of game.
33 mins some aerial pressure form Liverpool as they force a corner, from which Rodriguez ends up attempting a weak and effete looking overhead kick in a crowded box and then appealing for a penalty he's never going to get. Down the other end Larsson does very well to find space and pull the ball back to Gardner but his attempt at a genius instant-dink over Reina goes into the crowd. And Ben Evans asks: "Why are you sending McLeish to the Hague (3 mins). Even with Bowyer in the side, surely his selection policy is not a war crime?" Brussels then maybe? I'm no qualified EU law practitioner with law school and two years of on the job training behind me. Oh hang on. I am actually.
36 mins some heavy tackles still flying in out there. Birmingham seem to feel Liverpool players are making the most of it. And oh yes more fine keeping from Reina as Larsson puts in a fine cross from near the byeline and Reina rushes out to punch it off the top of Jerome's head just as you though he was going to score.
38 mins Cripes. That is even better from Reina. An absolute world class reflex save from Rein now as the ball is crossed and Gardner heads it goalwards from ten yards, looks certain to score as he gets a fine contact, but Reina makes an instant palm away batting it out spectacularly. Three really good saves so far and this game has suddenly taken off.
40 mins In between all that Liverpool had a shout for a penalty for a foul on Torres but it didn't look convincing - he actually failed to gather the ball and no one really looked that convinced.
43 mins A woeful defensive header from Skrtel gives away a corner and you really don't want to do that with Birmingham and their gang of heavies. Carragher just about avoids giving away an own goal as the ball is whipped in horribly towards the alpine peaks of various massed blue-shirted big men. It must be horrible defending against this. Birmingham don't so much attack as exert vague, pummeling pressure.
45 mins Not much midfield invention os far in this game - and practically none from Liverpool. I suspect Hodgson might draw Gerrard back in there and look for a bit more forward drive as the game has simply passed him by. Liam Ridgewell has looked a more potent attacking force in this first half.
45+2 mins HALF TIME. Birmingham 0-0 Liverpool. A half of great industry and two very good saves from Reina that have kept this match goalless. Liverpool started quite brightly but then just did pretty much nothing for half an hour. I will be back in a few minutes, at which point the word "ANALYSIS" will appear spinning in the corner of your vision while I blurt out some opinions and paste in a few emails.
Roy Allen thinks Liverpool have been robbed: "I was convinced that Liverpool should have had a penalty. I am full of admiration for Mark Halsey's courage and determination in overcoming cancer and getting back to reffing at the highest level. But he's not having a good season so far. In this game he's been lenient on Barry Ferguson's persistent offending, and missed a clear penalty to Liverpool." I don't think it was a foul for the penalty. Birmingham have been fairly fierce in the tackle. But that's all right isn't it?
Marty Felt has this: "As a heart passion liverpool supporter...what the f....k is it with you guys that hate Liverpool so much...can't wait for them to lose...these are trying times for the club! Gives us a break...Hodgson has put together the best team possible with the s...t Yanks w....ng...lets see where things are in January...please stop ragging raging about Torres comparing him to Owen...he"s much better then this...(by the way I am writing from Italy where I live...I have to put up with the comments) sincerely respectfully marty felt". Some fair points in there. Grr. Those Yanks w***ing.
Ian Copestake is worried about balance: "Liverpool's Poulsen and Leiva are so similar as to be invisible. Hopefully Mierles is someone who bombs forward but I sort of know he isn't." Liverpool do have a problem in midfield where they lack a bit of drive right now. It is the Hodgson way to defend deep and try to press forward from there when the moment is right. But no real actual forward pressing as yet here.
Adrian Cooper is harsh but maybe fair:" "Does Carragher really deserve his place in Liverpool's starting line up any more? Skertl can do the hard man bit and Agger is surely the more technically able centreback. Carragher could learn a lot from the Dane, he should spend every match thinking 'what would Agger do do do?""
46 mins Liverpool kick off again and immediately indulge in some patient passing form side to side at the back before giving up and hoofing it forwardcx with immediate results: the ball falls to Gerrard and he has a powerful shot that Foster leaps forward to save. That's more like it.
48 mins Beck down the other end Larsson swings in one of his lovely curling free kicks, Ridgewell meets it powerfully with his large and muscular forehead but his header hits his own player and pinballs away. Larsson then has another opportunity to put it in from the other side but it comes to nothing and this game continues to be a series of free kicks interrupted by some jostling and hoofing.
50 mins Some nice football from Birmingham in midfield as Gardner finds a little bit of space and slips it through to McFadden. His early shot trickles wide. But that was a little different. As in, it didn't involve falling over and shouting.
54 mins Birmingham have settled the bette of the two teams here and continue to see more of the ball, albeit mostly choosing to loft it from side to side. Liverpool finally have an attack as Konchesky makes good ground on the left and slides in a pass to Jovanovic that he can't quite gather inside the area. That was the first time I've mentioned Konchesky. You can get away with that when you're a left back. Everyone still says you've had a decent game even if you only touch the ball three times but don't do anything really obviously terrible.
56 mins More vague signs of hope for Liverpool as they press on the left without really doing anything much of any significance. I wonder at what point both of these teams will start to settle, surreptitiously, for a draw. Maybe it's already started happening. Oskar Kostecki is about right: "I started watching the match and it seemed as if Liverpool were trying to play some nice football, keeping it on the ground, passing to people under pressure. Now it seems its back to the same old, same old."
59 mins Larsson again hurls a free kick into the Liverpool box from the right hand side. Liverpool's "marking" is farcical and seems to involve simply everyone falling over at the same time and the ball is suddenly on top of Scott Dann's head about six yards out. He glances it over. It was bouncing up but that was a very good chance. Adam West notes: "I'm glad someone brought up the, erm, 'activities' of Hicks & Gillette. I'd like to know how they ever convinced Standard Chartered to associate themselves with the financial farce they've created. What next? The Glazers unveil Utd's new sponsor the Institute for Fiscal Studies?!"
62 mins Lucas wins the ball 30 yards out, nicks it to Torres and he plays Gerrard in on the right hand side. His cross is technically in the right areas but hit so hard and instantly that no one was ever going to get to it. The kind of cross where people say "he's got the right to expect someone to be on the end of that" but he hasn't really as it was all too rushed. Jonny Mac points out: "Gerrard - blood coming out of your ear can't be all that good, you think he's noticed?" I like his stoicism. Play through the brain bleed.
64 mins Gerrard seems to be lurking on the right a fair bit and he has got into the game a bit more. Another cross just falls short of Jovanovic. this passes for goal mouth incident here. As does that: Gerrard galloping forward plays in Torres on the right hand side of the box. He moves in on goal and has a powerful blast from a narrow angle that Foster can palm behind for a corner. It comes to nothing but that is better from Liverpool and Gerrard. Uncle Roy is now up in the dugout looking concerned and interested.
66 mins Gerrard is having his ear swabbed again. Someone has to get him a new shirt. A man runs off towards the dressing rooms to fetch it. And he's got one of those big white Steve Foster style headbands on now - usually a sure indication of impending heroics.
69 mins Hard to know where this one goes from here. Evenly poised in terms of vaguely promising huff-puff from both sides. But they also both keep giving the ball away in midfield. Not exactly an exhibition of fine passing this game.
69 mins David Lindores wonders of Gerrard: "How much louder would he have had to listen to "Sussudio" at halftime to make both ears bleed?" It has worked though. Inspired perhaps by ear-bleedingly loud Sussudio, Gerrard looks much livelier this half.
71 mins Another nice stop by Reina, pouncing athletically on a header by Jerome. And down the other end Carr concedes a free kick in a dangerous position barging into Jovanovic. It's zinged in but headed away mightily by one of Birmingham's interchangeable defensive oak trees. Jeinsen Lam sighs: "I dont know what is looking less likely Liverpool scoring against Brum or Woolcock breaking the deadlock with his knitting amore." He has gone quiet though.
74 mins A bit of a break for Birmingham on the left but McFadden's ball under no pressure is very poor and Reina catches it in his midriff. Only boring people say things are boring. But this is a bit boring at the moment. Mike Hanton argues: "On the contrary Liverpool and Standard Chartered are a perfect match. One is a huge corporate entity with a shady ownership employing a bunch of extremely overpaid yet nevertheless mostly useless millionaires and the other is Stand...you see where i'm going with this. In Fairness only one of them had a direct role in creating the credit crunch. I'm looking at you Ryan Babel."
78 mins Meireles is coming on to make his debut in pace of Lucas, so not exactly a radical change of system but still a chance to see how Mascherano's replacement looks in the heart of that midfield. Konchesky is also coming off. He seems to have injured his thigh. He is an incredibly bald man Konchesky - more bald than anyone has any business being. Agger is on in his place, completing Liverpool's trio of massively tattooed men.
81 mins Gerrard has actually dropped back a bit and it looks like Meireles will be pushing on. Torres almost runs on to a through pass and gets absolutely dumped by Dann sliding in to topple him violently but fairly. If you were Torres you would wonder about the Premier League sometimes. How long would you really want to put up with all this? Gerrard has a brief sight of goal but just a tiny fraction of a second in which to scythe the ball over the bar.
83 mins That's better from Torres as he carries the ball forward 30 yards to the edge of the area pursued by blue shirts and has a shot that Foster saves easily, the ball trapped a bit under his feet at the wrong moment. This game is thrashing about a bit and making quiet groaning noises, but it is kind of dying. Gene Solario sounds a little depressed: "As a Liverpool supporter I started this match thinking win and we're tied for 4th only a point behind United and ahead of City and Spurs. 65 minutes in I'm thinking we're still as shaky in back as last year, still miss Xabi but Mascherano not so much, and heresy alert, Torres really has only ever had one great year. And may Hicks and Gillette screw each other successfully and both get the clap."
85 mins But wait! Here comes Craig Gardener. He picks up the ball, rounds Gerrard and then scuffs a shot 20 yards wide from the edge of the box. No sign of any extra strikers from Birmingham. No wonder they have a lot of draws. Owen Woolcock is back and he's feeling guilty: "I possibly didn't emphasise the 'young' enough in the young and attractive comment. As a matter of fact I'm happily engaged, although the MBM dialogue has made me wonder if she'll want to take my name. Unlikely. I wouldn't blame her myself." Not if she reads this.
88 mins Poulsen - yes, he is playing - has a shot from 30 yards that might have been going goal-wards but it's blocked. Poulsen then puts in a decent cross from the right but Dann hacks it away. You can yawn if you like but this counts as a grandstand finish around here.
90 mins It has been all Liverpool in terms of possession these last few minutes and here comes Gerrard making good ground to the corner flag and crossing low only for Dann to clear again, sliding in and blocking spectacularly. On comes Zigic with three minutes to cause mild-mannered gangly havoc.
90+2 mins Gerrard has come into this since he went back into midfield and he's involved again as Jovanovic flicks on and Meireles narrowly avoids getting in for a late tap in at the far post (he was offside anyway - plus he actually shot backwards away from goal on the volley).
90+3 mins FULL TIME. Birmingham 0-0 Liverpool. the match ends with the ball in mid air having been punted there by a Birmingham full back and that seems fitting. A seventh draw in a row between these two and it was not the most expansive match you'll ever see. In fact almost nothing happened beyond Gerrard having a potentially half-time-Phil-Collins induced dual ear-bleed. Liverpool are up to 13th. Birmingham are in fifth spot. I'm off now. Thank you for your emails. Barney.
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