Pennant enjoying Reds run
By Andrew Scurr - Sky Sports
Jermaine Pennant believes he is beginning to reach the
standards expected of him by Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez.
The winger has started to force his way into The Reds'
line-up on a regular basis, but insists he is still on the
Pennant's run in the team has brought with it improved
confidence and the 24-year-old is determined to continue
"I'm in good form at the moment, but that's as part of the
team isn't it?" Pennant told the Liverpool Echo.
"When the team's performing it's easier to play well
yourself. Your best comes out then and at the moment I'm
really enjoying my football.
"It's pleasing to have found a consistency level. That will
be pleasing to the manager and the rest of the boys as well.
"You want to do a good job and then you get rewarded for it.
I feel I'm having an impact on the games.
"I know the standards expected at Liverpool and I've known
that since the first day I came here.
"Every day is a learning curve for me and the way we play
football here is great for me.
"I feel we've been playing well and being part of this team
helps me get better and improves my confidence.
"Last night's game (a 2-0 win against Middlesbrough) showed
how confident I am out there now."
Rafa eyeing one
more Reds victory
Rafael Benitez insisted his Liverpool side must achieve
one more league win ahead of their Champions League
semi-final next week with Chelsea.
The 2-0 home victory over Middlesbrough put the Anfield men
one victory away from ensuring Champions League football
That, the Liverpool boss hopes, will come when Wigan are the
visitors to Anfield on Saturday.
Benitez said: "We need that one more win before we play
Chelsea, that will mean we will be able to concentrate fully
on the Champions League semi-final matches.
"And Middlesbrough made things very hard for us. You know
that when you play against a side who defend so deep, you
have to keep the ball moving to find the opportunities and
"In such situations you need to do your job, and the first
goal is the key. Once we had scored that it meant they had
to come out and that created the space we needed."
And with the goals coming from Steven Gerrard, a 25-yard
strike and a penalty, Benitez knew his side owed a debt to
He said: "Quality players change games, and we know that
players like Steven can do such things. It was a fine first
goal, and it does not matter where we play him, either wide
or in the middle, he can produce match-winning situations."
Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate believed he had achieved
a response from his side after harsh words that followed
Saturday's 3-1 defeat at Aston Villa.
He said: "Questions were asked after Saturday's performance,
we took some severe criticism. And although this is a
difficult place to come, I felt the players produced a
display that was encouraging.
"They need to show hunger and play in a manner to produce
the right sort of performance, and I got that here."
He added: "Steven Gerrard's first goal was outstanding. We
just lost concentration for a moment and did not move
quickly enough to close him down, but that is the sort of
goal he can score.
"It was the turning point, a fantastic strike. You cannot
make one mistake like that against teams and players of this
made the difference
By Steve Hunter - LFC Official Website
Rafael Benitez was full of praise for his captain Steven
Gerrard after he inspired Liverpool to a 2-0 win over
Middlesbrough at Anfield on Wednesday night.
The Liverpool manager said Gerrard is always likely to make
things happen with his ability to shoot for goal from
distance and he felt the first goal was the key to breaking
down a well organised Middlesbrough side.
"We know the qualities Steven Gerrard has and he can change
games with his shots from distance," enthused Benitez.
"He did just that for the first goal and that was the key to
victory. We know Gerrard is happier when he is playing in
the middle but he knows that sometimes I have to play him on
the right side for the good of the team.
"I thought we deserved to win but we had to be patient and
we had to work hard. Middlesbrough came to play on the
counter attack and get men behind the ball and sometimes it
can be difficult to create clear chances when the opposition
play so deep.
"We now want to beat Wigan on Saturday and hopefully make
sure of a top four finish. Then we can start thinking about
the Champions League semi-final."
The Liverpool manager also revealed that the injury that
forced Momo Sissoko to leave the field early in the second
half wasn't serious.
By Graeme Bailey - Sky Sports
Liverpool eased back into third place in The Premiership
with a comfortable 2-0 win over Middlesbrough at Anfield.
Boro have not won at Liverpool for more than 30 years and
they rarely threatened as The Reds' victory was never in
doubt once they had taken the lead.
It did take an hour for Liverpool to force the breakthrough
against a stubborn Boro backline and it needed a delightful
Steven Gerrard strike to do it.
A Gerrard penalty soon followed to wrap up a straightforward
victory for Rafa Benitez's side - who will have been
delighted to have seen his side come through unscathed.
The first half was one of few chances and neither keeper was
Liverpool were looking to get Jermaine Pennant involved at
almost every opportunity and he did create a couple of good
opportunities but neither Mohamed Sissoko or Peter Crouch
could find a way through.
Gerrard and Javier Mascherano both tried long-range efforts
- but to no avail and indeed a slip at the other end handed
Boro the best chance of the half.
The Teessiders were looking to play on the break and they
almost and should have capitalised when Fabio Rochemback
dispossessed Jamie Carragher - after the England man
The Brazilian broke to the edge of the box but instead of
looking for the on-rushing Yakubu Aiyegbeni, who was well
placed in the middle, he took on the shot and fired wide
with his left foot.
The second period saw Liverpool start brightly and Gerrard
found Pennant on the back post and Boro were forced to
scramble clear. The resulting corner saw an unmarked
Mascherano almost break the deadlock but he hit the bar with
Soon after Benitez made the first change of the night as
Dirk Kuyt was introduced for Sissoko - but it was Boro who
were seeing more of the ball, but a tame Rochemback shot was
all they had to show for some industrious work.
Liverpool should then have taken the lead as they broke with
menace and pace. John Arne Riise galloped down the left and
crossed inside the six-yard box for Kuyt - but he was
wonderfully snubbed out by Jonathan Woodgate - who then got
up and managed to put off Boudewijn Zenden, as the Dutchman
fired over from just eight yards.
The home side were now turning up the pressure and within
minutes they had the lead and it was the talismanic Gerrard
who struck. Indeed it was an archetypal strike from the
ubiquitous midfielder as he fired home into the bottom
corner from 30 yards with a dipping strike.
Less than ten minutes later then game was put beyond Boro as
Gerrard struck again. This time it was from the penalty spot
as referee Graham Poll adjudged Andrew Davies to have tugged
Peter Crouch and Gerrard made no mistake from 12 yards.
With nothing to lose Boro brought on Mark Viduka - but the
change had little impact as Liverpool were more than happy
to sit back.
Viduka did create one late chance for Stewart Downing as the
England winger looked to get on the end of a long searching
pass, but he could not connect properly with his right foot
and a possible Reina error, as he came and missed the ball,
was averted as Liverpool claimed the three points which
takes them back into third.