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Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2009

News photo
Setback: Liverpool's Glen Johnson (right) vies for the ball with Birmingham's James McFadden in Premier League action on Monday at Anfield. The match ended in a 2-2 draw. AP PHOTO

Disputed penalty gives Liverpool draw with Birmingham

LIVERPOOL, England (AP) Steven Gerrard equalized with a disputed penalty Monday as Liverpool drew 2-2 with Birmingham to fall 11 points behind Premier League leader Chelsea.

Liverpool trailed 2-1 in the 71st minute at Anfield when striker David Ngog went down in the area after a challenge by Lee Carsley, although the Birmingham midfielder clearly made no contact and afterward accused the French striker of cheating.

"He went past me and I was nowhere near (him). It's a joke," Carsley said. "I didn't touch him at all. When (the ref) sees that, he will be really disappointed. I know for a fact that, if I went home knowing I'd done something like (Ngog did), I'd be embarrassed.

"We're supposed to be teaching the kids and leading by example, and that's just an embarrassing case of cheating."

Gerrard, having come off the bench despite a lingering groin injury, scored from the spot to keep his team in seventh place in a horror season that also has Liverpool facing elimination from the group stage of the Champions League.

Liverpool has been beaten six times in its past nine matches in all competitions, drawing twice and winning only once.

"We can talk about the penalty, whether it was or not," Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez said. "Maybe it wasn't a penalty, but I think we deserved to win because we had way too many opportunities."

The Reds have 19 points, while Birmingham is 15th with 12 points after a seventh straight league game against Liverpool without losing.

Although Fernando Torres was missing with a groin injury, Benitez surprisingly selected Gerrard on the bench and then watched his side go ahead in the 13th minute through Ngog.

Glen Johnson set up the chance with a weaving run down the right. Goalkeeper Joe Hart blocked shots from Ngog and Dirk Kuyt, but Alberto Riera lobbed the ball back toward the Frenchman, who powered it into the roof of the net with a first-time volley.

Birmingham leveled on a free kick in the 26th. Headed passes by Roger Johnson and Liam Ridgewell set up Christian Benitez for a close-range header to score.

Liverpool lost Riera just before halftime with a recurrence of his hamstring trouble and Gerrard went on as his replacement. But the Liverpool captain had not touched the ball before his side fell behind to Cameron Jerome's amazing strike in first-half stoppage time.

The striker collected a headed clearance by teammate Scott Dann, shrugged off a challenge and fired a dipping 30-meter shot that flew past goalkeeper Pepe Reina and under the crossbar.

Gerrard almost made it 2-2 in the 63rd minute when his header hit the outside of the post after a cross from Johnson.

Still, the Liverpool captain equalized in contentious circumstances.

Ngog burst into the area from the left and went down under a challenge from Carsley, although it appeared clear from TV replays that no contact had been made. Referee Peter Walton awarded the spot kick and Gerrard sent Hart the wrong way.

"This is a shame for the game. Why not stay on your feet?" Birmingham manager Alex McLeish said of Ngog's fall.

Cole sidelined

LONDON (AP) Chelsea defender Ashley Cole may be sidelined for several weeks with a depressed leg fracture which has already ruled him out of England's friendly against Brazil on Saturday.

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