By Tom Kell - Setanta Sports
Rafa Benitez once again shrugged off the
mounting speculation shrouding his position as Liverpool
manager after seeing his side stumble to a 1-1 draw with
Middlesbrough on Saturday.
The result means Liverpool have now gone four games without
a win and must surely be discounted from the title race as
they now sit 12 points adrift of the top of the pile.
However, Benitez remained defiant in the face of questions
as to whether the conjecture surrounding his job had
"No, not really,” he insisted. "I am trying to concentrate
on the next game. You must concentrate on games and not
anything else because you cannot change those things."
The Spaniard refuses to rule his side out of the title race,
but admits they must start turning dominance into points in
batches of threes if they are to overhaul Manchester United,
Arsenal and Chelsea.
"In this position, you cannot think about the leaders, you
must think about the next game against Luton, and after that
the next one against Aston Villa,” said Benitez.
"You can play well, you can create chances, but you need to
win. You can talk and talk, but at the end of the day, you
must win on the pitch.
"When you talk about a draw away, sometimes you think that
is good, but especially when you are trying to reduce the
gap and be closer, you must be disappointed."
Southgate happy with draw
Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate was
content with his side's 1-1 draw with Liverpool.
Fernando Torres' late strike denied Middlesbrough all three
points after George Boateng gave the home side a first-half
Southgate was full of praise for his side's performance and
felt if Stewart Downing's shot had gone in and not hit the
post they would have won the game.
"Had we got the second when we hit the post, I think we
would have won the game," said Southgate.
"But then you look at the guy who scored their goal and I
think he cost about as much as our entire 16, and you think
maybe it is not such a bad result.
"I am really pleased with the performance we gave because we
got the biggest crowd of the season here and it was
important we produced a good performance - and it was a
performance borne out of a lot of adversity."
Southgate was remaining coy on speculation linking Dowining
with a move away from the Riverside and swoops for strike
duo Alfonso Alves and Fred.
"It's speculation, simple. There is interest always in good
but we have enquiries throughout the year and there has been
nothing firmer than that," added Southgate.
"There is nothing, really, that has been anything out of the
ordinary, in my
Asked if he feared Downing had played his last game for the
club, Southgate replied: "I don't think so, no.
"It's January and it is a month I will be glad to see the
back of. There is very little to report."
Torres stunner rescues Reds
Fernando Torres' stunning goal rescued a
point for Liverpool in their 1-1 draw at Middlesbrough.
George Boateng gave Middlesbrough a deserved first half to
mark his return to the starting XI.
Liverpool looked to be heading to defeat until Torres popped
up 19 minutes from time with a brilliant long-range strike.
The draw was Liverpool's fouth successive stalemate in all
competitions and leaves their title dreams in real trouble.
Boro, who had 19-year-old full-back Jonathan Grounds making
his first senior start and were again missing Jonathan
Woodgate and Mido, produced the far more fluent football.
The invention of in-form Turkey international Tuncay
international was a threat throughout and with Downing, a
£12million target for Tottenham, providing good service from
the left, they pushed consistently throughout the first
They made the breakthrough with 26 minutes gone when Gary
O'Neil headed Downing's cross back across goal and Tuncay
nodded it down for Boateng to slide the ball home.
Boateng, who had been warmly applauded when his name was
announced, received the acclaim for his first goal of the
season joyously as his rehabilitation was completed.
Benitez made his move at the break when he sent on winger
Ryan Babel for full-back Alvaro Arbeloa, and there was
instantly a different look about his team.
Striker Andrei Voronin simply could not believe referee
Andre Marriner's decision not to away him a penalty within a
minute of the restart after he appeared to be barged to the
ground by Huth.
But Boro were almost handed a second goal on a plate four
minutes later when keeper Jose Reina inexplicably raced out
to the left touchline without a hope of beating Jeremie
Aliadiere to Downing's pass, and could only look on
gratefully as the Frenchman's cross failed to locate a red
Babel had started confidently and almost made a major impact
on 59 minutes when he cut in-field before unleashing a
dipping, swerving shot which wrong-footed Schwarzer and flew
inches past the far post.
But only the upright denied the Teessiders a second goal
eight minutes later when Downing's shot thundered into the
woodwork with Reina beaten, and O'Neil lifted the rebound
over the bar.
However, Torres' big moment arrived with 71 minutes gone
when he picked up the ball in midfield and despite stumbling
initially, hammered a venomous shot past the despairing
Schwarzer to level.
The Australian had to tip a late Gerrard effort over the
crossbar and block a Sami Hyypia header with his legs as the
visitors pressed for the win, but Southgate's men just about