clouds gather over beNITEZ

LONDON - Pressure mounted on Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez yesterday as his injury list grew, a run of poor results continued, and one of his players was accused of cheating.

LONDON - Pressure mounted on Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez yesterday as his injury list grew, a run of poor results continued, and one of his players was accused of cheating.

On Monday, Liverpool required a controversial penalty from Steven Gerrard to snatch a 2-2 draw against Birmingham City to leave them in seventh place, 11 points behind leaders Chelsea.

Albert Riera, Yossi Benayoun and Daniel Agger also suffered knocks, while Spanish striker Fernando Torres did not even make the match-day squad as he battles with a groin injury.

Of greater concern is the fitness of Torres, and while Liverpool's next game against Manchester City is not until November 21 because of the international break, Benitez said the Spanish international may not be ready then.

"Torres had no confidence and said he couldn't play, so we started the treatment yesterday," Benitez said. "He has to work with the physios and try to improve and be ready. We are not talking about an operation at this moment."

Benitez must also now deal with the fallout from Monday's match, with angry Birmingham City players and management accusing Liverpool striker David Ngog of cheating after he earned a controversial penalty that salvaged the draw at Anfield.

With Birmingham leading 2-1, Ngog went to ground with 20 minutes remaining after a challenge by Birmingham's Lee Carsley. Television replays showed no contact had been made.

"You are supposed to be teaching your kids an example and this is just an embarrassing case of cheating," Carsley was quoted as saying by British media.

"I was absolutely nowhere near him. It's a joke."

The point left Birmingham in 15th place." - Reuters

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