After The Match 


Middlesbrough-Liverpool 0-0     Sat 13.08.05                   PL
Team: Reina, Finnan, Hyypia, Carragher, Warnock, Garcia, Sissoko, Alonso, Zenden, Gerrard, Morientes
Subs: Cisse (Garcia 57), Baros (Morientes 67)
Not used: Carson, Riise, Whitbread
Yellow: Alonso (28), Garcia (41), Sissoko (51)
Parlour (32), Queudrue (84)
Red: Ehiogu (74)
Referee: Mark Halsey
Attendance: 31,908
Shots on target: 2-7
Shots off target: 2-9
Fouls conceded: 17-11
Corners: 5-0
Yellow: 2-3



worked really
hard in defence."
      Rafael Benitez

1608: Liverpool hopes on a wing and a prayer
1508: Gerrard wins high praise from Zenden
1308: McClaren: We were lucky
1308: Benitez mulls over Boro draw
1308: Ten-man Boro thwart Reds


Liverpool hopes on a wing and a prayer

By Mark Lawrenson - Daily Post

Middlesbrough away has been one of the more difficult visits on Liverpool's fixture list recently, especially last season when they put in a 'nothing' performance.

This time around they dominated with an excellent performance and deserved to win 2-0 or 3-0 at least. Rafael Benitez's preferred system worked almost to perfection and Steven Gerrard had maybe seven chances that on another day would have gone in.

As good as it was though, I think they should have had three points, not one.

Just look at Chelsea - they could easily have lost at Wigan, but they managed to win. Just look at Arsenal. Newcastle held them out for most of the match, but they manage to find a way to take all the points.

One area where I feel they still have the edge is in width, which is where Steve Finnan and John Arne Riise or Stephen Warnock must stand up and be counted more than they have done to date.

Benitez's system - 4-2-3-1 can mean a lot of the play comes down the middle at times, which is probably why he is so keen for a right-sided midfielder.

At Chelsea they have Damien Duff, Arjen Robben, Shaun Wright Phillips and Joe Cole. Manchester United have Ryan Giggs, Cristiano Ronaldo and Park Ji Sung. Arsenal have Freddie Ljungberg and Robert Pires, with Ashley Cole and Lauren bombing on from fullback.

If the likes of Bolo Zenden and Luis Garcia tuck in for Liverpool, Finnan and Riise or Warnock have to get past them, but it is a skill Liverpool have yet to master to its full effect.

That is still the subtle difference between those clubs and Liverpool, and over the Premiership season that will add up to a few points at least.

Still, given that away from Anfield was his team's Achilles heel last season, I am sure I was not the only person to see the improvement Benitez has made.

There was a confidence around much of Liverpool's play that was partially a follow up to the Champions League victory and partially something more.

What was it? I think it was the understanding they have built up in pre-season which shone through in their movement and appitite for the game.

And then there was Gerrard. In that role off the front player - secure in the knowledge he has Xabi Alonso and Momo Sissoko minding the shop - he is virtually unstoppable at times.

A lot of his success comes from the positions where he starts his runs. He is running off the back of midfield players at centre-backs and full-backs who are trying to jockey him, whereas he is going flat out.

That commits defenders - just ask Ugo Ehiogu, who could not keep up with Gerrard and brought him down for the sending-off.

That is where he is most effective, although given that Benitez will not play 4-2-3-1 all the time, he may have to settle for a more conventional midfield role in other games.

I think one of those will be against Sunderland in the next match, who looked like they would struggle after defeat against Charlton's 10 men.

Djibril Cisse should come back into the starting line-up for that game, which I am looking forward to.

He could be a real star this season, given what I have seen of him so far.

Mark Lawrenson was talking to NEIL MACDONALD

Gerrard wins high praise from Zenden

By Ian Doyle - Daily Post

Boudewinj Zenden led the praise for Steven Gerrard after the Liverpool midfielder's performance at the Riverside on Saturday.

Gerrard could have had a hat-trick after carving out a series of chances in the goalless draw with Middlesbrough.

And Zenden said: "Steven Gerrard is up there with Davids and Seedorf; he is the engine of the team. He gets into positions to score and then he has the attitude to get the rest of us going.

"But we have got a lot of quality players. One day it is one player on another day it is someone else. Steven is one of the main characters. He is certainly one of the best I have played alongside."

Zenden was making his Premiership debut at his former club following his summer free transfer to Liverpool.

And he added: "It has been fantastic but what we are trying to do is to gel it all together.

"Had we been a bit luckier, we would have walked away with three points on Saturday.

"We can have a go at winning the title; I am not going to throw the towel in. The main objective is to make sure we qualify for the Champions League but we cannot say that we are satisfied with fourth."

Zenden was jeered by the majority of home supporters, and he conceded: "You have to be realistic; people forget quickly.

I had two fantastic years here and last year I was the player of the year - as chosen by the fans.

"It is down to Keith Lamb (Boro chief executive) trying to save his own face by blaming everything on me. He is the one that made the decision last year and made it very difficult for me to stay."

Middlesbrough midfielder George Boateng joined in the praise for Gerrard and claimed Liverpool can close the gap on champions Chelsea this seson.

"For me, Gerrard is probably one of the best English players in the country, if not the best," he said..

"The guy is very gifted; he can run, he can shoot, he can run the whole game.

"He has got skill, he has got pace, he is a powerful runner. He is going to be to Liverpool what Paul Scholes was to Manchester United.

"He is a great player and I would love to have him on my team."

Boateng added: "Liverpool have gone to another level after they won the Champions League. It has given them a great confidence boost and now it seems they really believe in themselves and believe they can push on again.

"For me they are going to close the gap on Chelsea maybe by a good 10-12 points. It's not that we played negatively; it is because we were up against a good side."

McClaren: We were lucky

By Peter ORourke - Sky Sports

Middlesbrough boss Steve McClaren admitted his side rode their luck as they drew 0-0 with Liverpool.

The home side found themselves under pressure for most of the game and they had to hold on for the point after Ugo Ehiogu was sent off 16 minutes from time.

Steven Gerrard missed several clear openings and McClaren admitted his team was lucky that the Liverpool skipper did not take his chances.

"I think we were lucky," said McClaren.

"He has been scoring goals quite regularly in pre-season and when he got a couple of chances, we rode our luck on those occasions.

"But I think we deserved that luck. We got those breaks but we worked hard enough for them. But he is an awesome player. He was their best attacker and their best defender. He was everywhere."

McClaren was delighted with his side's resilence following the sending off.

"At the time, I was just relieved that it was not in the penalty box and a sending-off and a penalty and 1-0 down and probably losing the game," added McClaren.

"I have had that one before here, so I cannot really complain.

"It is very important to get something from your first game. It was always going to be a difficult one.

"You can gauge Liverpool's form because of the competitive games they have played. They have scored 25 goals and conceded seven and won seven or eight, so we knew Liverpool were in good form and we did not quite know where we were.

"I was pleased we were ready. I do not think we would have been able to perform like that, especially in the last 20 minutes with 10 men if we were not ready."

Benitez mulls over Boro draw

ITV Football

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez was in philosophical mood after seeing skipper Steven Gerrard miss a hat-trick of glorious chances to get his side's Barclays Premiership campaign off to the perfect start at Middlesbrough.

The England midfielder fired over the bar after 22 minutes and went agonisingly close with two second-half headers, the second of them in the final minute, as the Teessiders wilted after having defender Ugo Ehiogu
sent off.

Gerrard was head and shoulders the best player on the field and was desperately unfortunate not to claim the goal his performance so richly deserved.

And his manager could find little fault with his efforts.

"He scored seven goals in pre-season," he said. "Maybe today he had four possibilities but two or three clear.

"Now we need to think about the next game away and do similar things as today."

Benitez arrived at the Riverside Stadium with five men across midfield and Fernando Morientes alone up front.

Although his side always looked the more likely winners, it was not until Gerrard took the game by the scruff of the neck after the break - assisted by the introduction of Djibril Cisse and Milan Baros as well as Ehiogu's untimely departure - they turned potential into chances.

Boro were rarely a threat, although substitute Mark Viduka headed straight at keeper Jose Reina, who endured an uncomfortable afternoon on Teesside, and the Reds' boss was happy with a clean sheet.

"It was one of the things we were talking about, a clean sheet," he said. "The team worked really hard in defence.

"In the first half, we controlled the game. We did not create a lot - there was a clear chance for Steven - but we were controlling the game apart from some corners and free-kicks which were not really dangerous.

"In the second half, we went forward, still working hard in defence, with Milan and Cisse, different strikers, and in the big picture, we have played a good game with a clean sheet and a lot of opportunities.

"You can say that the players have done the right things."

Ten-man Boro thwart Reds


Steven Gerrard waged a one-man war on 10-man Middlesbrough but Liverpool left Teesside with only a 0-0 draw to show for his efforts.

On another day, the England midfielder might have claimed a hat-trick, but a combination of poor finishing, solid goalkeeping and bad luck denied him the decisive goal his individual display deserved.

Gerrard could have won it as early as the 22nd minute, but fired over the bar from from close range, and he then saw a looping header drop onto the roof of the net with keeper Mark Schwarzer stranded after Ugo Ehiogu had been dismissed.

And with only seconds of the 90 minutes remaining, he powered a header across the face of goal with Steve McClaren's men wilting under the strain.

The Merseysiders always looked the more likely winners despite under-achieving before the break, but with Gerrard upping the tempo and substitute Djibril Cisse adding fresh impetus, just how Boro survived was a mystery.

McClaren will feel it was a point well earned, but opposite number Rafael Benitez headed back across the Pennines wondering how he was doing so without all three.

Mark Schwarzer had one regulation save to make from former team-mate Bolo Zenden in a tepid first half and opposite number Jose Reina made his own difficulties by flapping at a Stewart Downing corner and allowing Ehiogu to send a deflected follow-up just wide.

Had Gerrard not wasted the best move of the opening 45 minutes when he fired high over from close range after Fernando Morientes had perfectly headed down Xabi Alonso's cross, the European champions would have been well on their way.

Zenden was inevitably booed at every opportunity from the moment he left the team coach but his invention was clearly missing from a Boro side which included Gaizka Mendieta for the first time since October last year through injury.

McClaren's assertion that he still needs two creative midfielders - Sporting Lisbon's Roudolphe Douala and Fabio Rochemback remain in the frame - was eloquently illustrated, but in truth, despite Gerrard's probing, there was little more on offer from the visitors.

Whether it was the sight of Cisse, Milan Baros and John Arne Riise warming up on the sideline as the second half got underway which spurred Liverpool on, they set about their task after the break with some relish.

Morientes tested Schwarzer with a speculative effort, but it was Gerrard who led the fight, sending two shots, the second of them a well-executed long-range volley, wide and forcing the Australian to pull off a smart save.

Cisse eventually arrived as a replacement for Luis Garcia with 58 minutes gone. Mohamed Sissoko latched onto a weak Ehiogu header and drilled a 63rd-minute shot wide, but both managers moved to sharpen up their attack after 67 minutes with Baros and Mark Viduka replacing Morientes and Hasselbaink respectively.

Cisse was just unable to climb high enough to meet Sami Hyypia's header back across goal after 71 minutes and Viduka headed straight at Reina from a Downing corner two minutes later, but the balance of the game was about to change again.

Ehiogu was caught flat-footed when Baros played the ball in behind him to Gerrard after 74 minutes, and when he tripped the midfielder, referee Mark Halsey had little option but to dismiss him.

Nemeth bravely blocked Cisse's shot from the resulting free-kick, but when Jamie Carragher fed the ball into the box, Gerrard beat the advancing Schwarzer to it but headed onto the roof of the empty net.

The Reds bombarded their hosts as the clock ran down, but despite mounting a sustained assault, could not find the breakthrough with Gerrard powering a header across the face of goal in the final minute of normal time.

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Thor Zakariassen