- The Guardian, Tuesday 10 November 2009
The Liverpool striker David Ngog was accused of indulging in "an embarrassing case of cheating" last night as a controversial penalty salvaged a draw against Birmingham City but left Rafael Benítez's team seventh in the Premier League and 11 points behind leaders, Chelsea.
Liverpool were dominant but trailing 2-1 with 20 minutes remaining when the former Paris St Germain forward dived over a challenge from Lee Carsley and the referee, Peter Walton, pointed to the spot. Steven Gerrard, making his first appearance in five matches following an adductor problem, duly converted but Ngog's theatrics prompted a furious response from Birmingham and Benítez admitted the award was dubious having spoken to the 20-year-old in the dressing room.
"I was absolutely nowhere near him. It's a joke," said Carsley, the former Everton midfielder. "I know I didn't touch him and I said to the referee to book me or send me off. That would have made me feel better. I'm sure he has got a family but, if I went home having done that, I'd be embarrassed. You are supposed to be teaching your kids an example and this is just an embarrassing case of cheating. But the lad has taken a chance and got his team a point, so I'm sure they'll be patting him on the back."
Ngog, in for the injured Fernando Torres, had given Liverpool a merited lead until Christian Benítez's and Cameron Jerome's first league goal of the season transformed the contest. The home side put Joe Hart's goal under relentless pressure in the second half but beat the Birmingham goalkeeper thanks only to the game's incendiary incident.
"He is a top referee," said Alex McLeish, the City manager, "but he didn't get that one right and I'm sure when he looks at it again he'll see that Ngog dived. It was a terrific dive. Sometimes there is a debate over a penalty when there is contact but there was none here. It was not even close to being a penalty."
Liverpool have now won only once in nine matches and their injury problems continued last night with both Albert Riera and Yossi Benayoun suffering hamstring injuries. The international break gives Liverpool respite on the injury front, with Torres to receive intensive treatment on a hernia over the next fortnight, but the result brought fresh frustration for Benítez.
"We have to be disappointed with a draw at home," said the Liverpool manager. "The performance of the team was pretty good for me. We had plenty of possession, a lot of attempts and showed character until the end. Everyone in the stadium thought we would get a third goal but we just couldn't do it.
"It was a pity to score with a penalty that maybe wasn't a penalty. It is not fair sometimes but we have had a lot of things go against us this season and we deserved more from this game. It turned out to be positive for us. We attacked and attacked and we deserved to win but maybe it wasn't a penalty."
Benítez revealed he had questioned Ngog on the legitimacy of the penalty award. "I asked him about the penalty and he said maybe it wasn't. I haven't seen a replay but I spoke to him about it," he said. The Liverpool manager also suspected Benayoun and Riera had torn their hamstrings, although a full diagnosis will be made today. He added: "Riera has the same problem and so does Yossi now. Also [Daniel] Agger felt something in his back. It is not serious but he felt it again."
"Fernando had no confidence and so we started his treatment yesterday. We are not talking about an operation. He has to work with the physios and we will treat him properly. He will spend two or three weeks working with the physios and we will see how he reacts every day."