After The Match 


Liverpool-Middlesbrough 2-0 (0-0)       18.4. 07                  PL
Goals: Gerrard (58, 65 pen)
Team: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Agger, Riise, Pennant, Mascherano, Sissoko, Zenden, Gerrard, Crouch
Subs: Kuyt (Sissoko 52), Gonzalez (Gerrard 87)
Not used: Dudek, Hyypia, Fowler
Yellow: Davies (59)
Red: None
Referee: G Poll
Attendance: 41,458
Shots on target: 4-2
Shots off target: 14-3
Blocked shots: 6-1
Possession: 64.5-35.5
Fouls conceded: 9-15
Corners: 8-2
Offsides: 2-3
Yellow: 0-1
Red: 0-0
HEADLINES "We now want to beat Wigan on Saturday and hopefully make sure of a top four finish."
    Rafael Benitez

1904: Pennant enjoying Reds run
1904: Rafa eyeing one more Reds victory
1804: Rafa: Stevie made the difference
1804: Reds ease past Boro



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 learning curve.

Pennant's run in the team has brought with it improved confidence and the 24-year-old is determined to continue flying.

"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 next season.

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 openings.

"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 their skipper.

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 standard."

Rafa: Stevie 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.

Reds ease past Boro

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 seriously tested.

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 slipped.

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 his header.

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.

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