BIRMINGHAM City captain Lee Carsley slammed Liverpool's David Ngog for what he described as "an embarrassing case of cheating" after the young striker helped Liverpool earn a point with a controversial penalty.
Ngog scored a wonderful opener in the 2-2 draw at Anfield last night, but his role in the Reds' second-half equaliser will draw most attention.
The French forward went to ground in the penalty area with Carsley apparently nowhere near making contact with his sliding challenge. The referee nevertheless awarded a penalty, which substitute Steven Gerrard stroked home to restore parity after goals from Christian Benitez and Cameron Jerome.
Carsley was in no doubt that Ngog was guilty of diving.
He said: "It's a joke. I knew I didn't touch him and I said to the referee to book me or send me off, it would have made me feel better. I'm sure he (Ngog] has got a family, well if I went home having done that I'd be embarrassed. You're supposed to be teaching your kids an example and that is just an embarrassing case of cheating. But the lad's taken a chance and got his team a point so I'm sure they'll be patting him on the back."
However, while Gerrard's penalty rescued a point for Liverpool, it did little to lift the pressure on manager Rafael Benitez.
It is just one win now in nine games and the Reds must be grateful for the international break which will allow the dust to settle on their faltering season.
Joe Hart saved one Ngog effort before the France Under-21 striker gave Liverpool a 13th-minute lead. Johnson surged down the right, cutting between two defenders before crossing for Ngog who saw his first effort blocked by Hart. The ball flew to Dirk Kuyt only for Hart to again get his legs in the way, but when the rebound dropped for Ngog he made no mistake with a fierce a close-range volley into the roof of the net.
Teemu Tainio limped off two minutes later, former Everton midfielder Carsley coming on in his place. Liverpool had been cruising up until now, but Birmingham struck back with an impressive set-piece. James McFadden fired a free-kick into the area and Roger Johnson headed back across goal where Scott Dann nodded on for Benitez to head past Jose Reina from close range.
A minute from the break Albert Riera suffered a recurrence of a hamstring injury, and Gerrard was brought into the fray as a substitute. His arrival was met with huge cheers from the Kop, but the home crowd was silenced within seconds as Birmingham took the lead. Jerome shook off the attentions of Mascherano to lash a swerving 30-yard effort into the top corner. The confidence Liverpool had shown in the first half hour evaporated and, with the crowd's anxiety growing, errors in possession increased.
But Liverpool were awarded the highly contentious 71st-minute penalty. Ngog did well to get to the byline and went sprawling to the turf as Carsley came in with a sliding challenge, even though the Birmingham man's leg did not touch the Liverpool youngster. Carsley and Ngog exchanged views and pushes, and referee Peter Walton booked both before Gerrard stepped up to drill home the spot-kick.
Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Insua, Mascherano, Lucas (Aquilani 82), Kuyt, Benayoun (Babel 77), Riera (Gerrard 45), Ngog. Subs not used: Cavalieri, Kyrgiakos, Spearing, Darby. Booked: Ngog.
Birmingham: Hart, Carr, Roger Johnson, Dann, Ridgewell, Larsson, Bowyer, Tainio (Carsley 15), McFadden (Vignal 67), Benitez (McSheffrey 86), Jerome. Subs not used: Maik Taylor, Phillips, Espinoza, Queudrue. Booked: McFadden, Carsley.