After The Match 


Middlesbrough-Liverpool 0-0            18.11.06                     PL
Team: Reina, Finnan, Agger, Carragher, Riise, Gerrard, Gonzalez, Alonso, Pennant, Bellamy, Kuyt
Subs: Crouch (Kuyt 79), Zenden (Gonzalez 84)
Not used: Dudek, Hyypia, Paletta
Yellow: None
Red: None
Referee:  L Mason
Attendance: 31,424
Shots on target: 1-6
Shots off target: 0-5
Possession: 47-53
Fouls conceded: 14-4
Corners: 2-12
Offsides: 1-2
Yellow: 0-0


HEADLINES "If we play
as today for 100 games
we would
win 99."
    Rafael Benitez

2111: Move to the wing can help Bellamy
2011: Rafa confident in Bellamy
2011: Gonzalez pleads for fan patience
2011: Failing to turn dominance into victory
2011: Kuyt keeps faith for goal return on away days
1911: Xabi worried by 'negative' Reds
1811: Rafa frustration at draw
1811: Stubborn Boro hold Reds 

Move to the wing can help Bellamy

By Mark Lawrenson - Daily Post

He was the big-money signing desperate to score the goals to lift the club he supported as a boy back to the top of the English game. But now, it's time for Liverpool to take Craig Bellamy out of the limelight.

That doesn't mean taking him out of the team.

It just means moving him into an area where the pressure on him to score goals won't be as great.

As he isn't finding the net at the moment I don't see what Rafael Benitez would lose by playing Bellamy out on the left or on the right.

It's not as if either Mark Gonzalez or Jermaine Pennant are making themselves immune from the drop in either of those positions, is it?

The one thing Bellamy is giving to the team at the moment is pace.

It's clear he's still got that and can cause teams problems in wide areas, where he often pulls away during the natural course of a game anyway.

This would then make it easy for Benitez to play his two top scorers, Dirk Kuyt and Peter Crouch, up front with Bellamy adding an extra dimension to the attack without also having the added burden of needing to score.

Whether anyone agrees with this tactic or not, what can't be argued is that something needs to be done to alter Liverpool's dismal scoring record away from Anfield.

I would say that Kuyt and, if you count him as an attacking player, Steven Gerrard are the two who are looking dangerous just now.

Bellamy, Pennant and Gonzalez aren't.

So 60% of the attack is just not threatening.

What happens then is, when you get the odd chance but you have to take it because there's no sustained pressure being put on the opposition - who, incidentally, I thought were there for the taking on Saturday.

While Liverpool have suffered for their failure to score in their five previous games, you could argue that this was due to the quality of the opposition, who punished them by sending them to defeats.

But Middlesbrough are one of those teams that they should be looking to come away with three points from and not doing that just compounds the misery over the non-existent title challenge even further.

That genuine shot at the Premiership so many predicted was mainly based on the additions but the three I've mentioned - Bellamy, Pennant and Gonzalez - just haven't grasped the mettle.

Gonzalez has an excuse because every foreign player is a little taken aback by the pace of the Premiership when they come in but the other two know what this league is all about.

But they just seem to have been overwhelmed by the standards expected of Liverpool players and, as a result, the Anfield side has been overwhelmed by the top teams.

So my answer is to try Bellamy in a new role and maybe give him a new lease of life.

I know it sounds like taking him out of the middle is avoiding the problem rather than meeting it head on and tackling it.

But right now it's the only solution I can come up with.

Rafa confident in Bellamy

By Lewis Rutledge - Sky Sports

Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez believes Craig Bellamy will soon discover his best form.

The 27-year-old has scored just one goal in The Premiership this season and again failed to impress against Middlesbrough on Saturday after being preferred to Peter Crouch up front.

Benitez splashed out 6.5 million for the Welsh striker in June and is eager to see him regain his confidence.

He spoke to Bellamy after last week's internationals and assured him that if he continued to put the effort in the goals would start flying in before too long.

"Sometimes when you are not playing well and you have that mentality of his then you get frustrated. You start making mistakes," Benitez told Liverpool's official website.

"He said to me he wanted to make an impact. Now maybe he's worried about these things and thinks I don't have confidence in him.

"I have said to him if he continues to work hard for me then it's OK. He will score goals and play well. Sometimes he has this anxiety and wants to do everything in a perfect way.

"I have confidence in Craig and had a good talk with him after the Wales game. We analysed things and are trying to give him confidence."

Gonzalez pleads for fan patience

By Chris Bascombe - Liverpool Echo

Mark Gonzalez today pleaded for patience as he comes to terms with Premiership football.

Liverpool's ongoing failure to score goals on their travels was again the focus of attention following the 0-0 draw with Middlesbrough.

Gonzalez came as close as any Liverpool player to breaking the deadlock in the second half, but admitted he's still adapting to the physical demands of the English game.

"I need to settle more to English football. I knew it would be difficult and it's going to take me more time to get used to it," he said.

"I know I must do more, but I'm confident I will. I know sometimes people don't understand that you can make mistakes in a game and things don't always look perfect immediately, but I'll keep on working.

"I know in football it's not normal for people to be patient, but we all understand that will be the case until we do our best on the pitch and win more games.

"I just have to keep working hard to get myself fitter. It's a demanding league and it's not the same working on physical training as playing in games.

"The best way to adjust is always to play as much as possible, and at the moment I'm doing that.

"There are a lot of new players to the squad, and it's normal for it to take time.

"We're working every day to learn each other's game and then show it on the pitch.

"At the moment it's not happening, but hopefully it's not going to take long to gel using a system with the two wingers."

Rafa Benitez and his players tried to focus on the positives from a game Liverpool dominated, and at least ended the sequence of five consecutive away defeats in the Premiership.

"We played a very good second half but it wasn't the result we're waiting for," said Gonzalez. "In general, I felt we had a number of chances but just couldn't score. Now we have to look forward and keep improving.

"It was a big improvement on the second half against Arsenal. Maybe the start of the game wasn't the best, but we know we've not done enough unless we score as well.

"There are still six months to play, and it's important not to throw in the towel. We're a long way from the end."

Failing to turn dominance into victory

By Ian Doyle - Daily Post Staff

Frustrated Rafael Benitez admitted Saturday's goalless draw at Middlesbrough "felt like a defeat" after Liverpool wasted the chance to end their away-day misery.

The visitors dominated possession and created a number of chances but could not break down a stubborn Middlesbrough rearguard.

It left Liverpool searching for their first Premiership away goal since the opening day of the season and saw them fall 16 points behind leaders Manchester United.

And Liverpool manager Benitez said: "You could say it felt like a bit of a defeat - if you analyse the game you see that we lost two points.

"The players more than anyone don't want this poor away record to continue.

"They know they needed to win and they worked really hard to give themselves plenty of options.

"It was clear that we were trying to win - sometimes when you are under pressure you try not to lose but we were trying to go forward as much as possible and score as much as possible.

"You need your players to have an offensive mentality and we had that."

Benitez selected an attacking line-up and his team dominated the second half without being able to find the killer touch, coming closest eight minutes from time when Middlesbrough defender Jonathan Woodgate headed substitute Peter Crouch's header off the line.

And Benitez is confident it's only a matter of time before the away victories come if Liverpool continue to perform in the same manner as on Teesside on Saturday evening.

"In the second half it was almost like we were playing back at Anfield, no?" he added.

"When you are a manager and your team doesn't create many chances you are massively worried.

"But when you create chances and your players get forward so much like we did here you will win 99 times out of 100 when you play like this.

"They had a lot of defenders back and we knew that, so that's why we attacked the near post and why we played short corners.

"We tried to move the defenders because we knew they were good in
the air."

Benitez added: "Thinking about the future we know that if we put in performances like that we will win more games.

"Against Chelsea I thought we played really well, and against Bolton until we conceded.

"Away we have conceded a number of opportunities and we can't do any more.

"We were attacking a lot and we needed to be aware of long balls."

Kuyt keeps faith for goal
return on away days

By Ian Doyle, Chief Football Correspondent - Daily Post

Dirk Kuyt has dismissed fears Liverpool's players are lacking mental strength away from home despite conceding it was "taking too long" to claim a first league win on their travels this season.

Rafael Benitez's side were held to a goalless draw at Middlesbrough on Saturday evening despite dominating possession and creating a number of chances at the Riverside.

The result ended a run of five successive away defeats but left Liverpool seeking their first Premiership away goal since Robbie Fowler netted at Sheffield United on the opening day of the season in August.

The last time Liverpool went six away games without scoring was in the 1991-92 season when they ended up finishing in sixth place.

But Holland international Kuyt, who is still seeking his first goal away from Anfield, believes Liverpool retain the belief they can succeed on their Premiership travels.

"It's been lots of games away from home now without a goal but we have to back ourselves because we have top quality players," said the striker..

"Mentally we are very strong but we just have to keep making the chances and we will soon start scoring the goals.

"We've played really well at home this season and if we play like we did at Middlesbrough I'm sure it won't be long before we get our first away win. It's taking too long, though."

Kuyt revealed the squad have talked among themselves about the away goal drought and is confident the barren spell will soon be over.

"I don't know why we can't score but this match was very different from the other ones because on this occasion we played very well," said the Dutchman..

"We've spoken about the lack of goals as a team but I'm sure they'll come. A point here is two dropped for us, but we have to believe in ourselves and that we can catch the others.

"We worked really hard and we deserved to win but you can't win if you don't score. Although we played well, that was again the problem here.

"We had plenty of chances but we had to take one of them, we were much the better team but football is all about getting goals and we were unlucky."

Saturday saw Liverpool claim their first away clean sheet in the league this season, and Kuyt has urged his team-mates to build on that positive and start moving up the Premiership table.

"There was lots of quality from us but it's all about putting the ball in the net," he added. "I'm sure we'll soon start doing that but it's a big disappointment.

"We can go on from this because a clean sheet is not so bad. We only had one moment when we had any problems. Apart from that we controlled the game.

"We can only focus on our own games and if we keep winning our home games we will keep moving up the league. I think firstly we have to make sure we get in the top four.

"Then, with the players we have got, try to develop it from there."

Xabi worried by 'negative' Reds

By Chris Stanton - Sky Sports

Xabi Alonso believes the doom and gloom engulfing Liverpool has already all but scuppered their hopes of competing for
the Premiership title.

Another below par performance from The Reds in a goalless draw at Middlesbrough on Saturday evening means the team trail leaders Manchester United by 16 points after just 13 matches.

A run of just two points from 21 available away from home has left their title hopes hanging by a thread.

Alonso admits he would be able to see a light at the end of the tunnel, were it not for the negativity pervading the Anfield dressing room.

"The fight for the title is getting more and more difficult for us," said Alonso.

"Not just because of the points difference but because of the atmosphere I see at the club.

"I see pessimism and in that respect it is going to be very hard to come back.

"We can't put three straight wins together and are unable to transmit the spirit of Europe to league games.

"I don't know if it is something psychological but we are very annoyed."

Rafa frustration at draw

By Graeme Bailey - Sky Sports

Rafa Benitez could barely believe his side did not come away from Middlesbrough with a victory.

Liverpool dominated for huge periods at The Riverside, but they failed create much or convert what little did come their way.

Benitez though insists he was not unhappy as they would win '99 games out of 100' playing as they do.

"We created a lot of chances. We deserved to win, we had a clean sheet and we were going forward all the time," he told PremPlus.

"We have created enough for scoring goals and we must do the same, keep going.

"Today the team was controlling the game and creating a lot of chances.

"If they had scored the first goal it could have been totally different.

"If we play as today for 100 games we would win 99."

Stubborn Boro hold Reds

By Graeme Bailey - Sky Sports

Liverpool failed to break down a stubborn Middlesbrough defence as they were held to a disappointing 0-0 draw at The Riverside in Saturday's late Premiership kick-off.

The Reds dominated the play, but there was little cutting edge to their play and they could not find a way through a defence excellently marshalled by Jonathan Woodgate.

Indeed a toothless Boro could have won it in the second half through Yakubu Aiyegbeni - but he missed a great chance, while Mark Schwarzer was on hand to prevent Mark Gonzalez, Jermaine Pennant and Dan Agger from breaking the deadlock and seal a share of the spoils for the home side.

An abject opening 45 minutes saw few chances and indeed not a single one for Boro.

Dirk Kuyt arguably had the best chance of the opening 45 minutes with the first real opportunity of the game. It came as Craig Bellamy latched onto a Steven Gerrard pass and the ball deflected into the path of Kuyt, but the Dutchman fired wide of goal.

Just a minute later and Gerrard almost burst clear in archetypal fashion but just in the nick of time Andrew Taylor came across to cut out the Liverpool skipper.

Pennant almost broke the deadlock before the interval as he picked up the ball before turning and shooting which needed Schwarzer to be at his best to turn the ball wide.

Boro were forced to make a change at the interval with Andrew Davies limping off which meant Robert Huth coming on and playing in an unaccustomed role at right back.

Indeed the change seemed to give Boro a much needed spark and they should have taken the lead on 53 minutes.

Good work from James Morrison on the right saw him pick out Jason Euell in the box, his header was excellently parried by Jose Reina but the rebound somehow evaded Yakubu with the goal at his mercy.

Liverpool then again took control and dominated possession. Some nice work from Pennant saw him pick out a deep run from Kuyt who in turn found Bellamy - but his goal-bound header was blocked by Huth.

Schwarzer then had to produce a wonderful save to stop Agger, whose marauding run from the back went unchecked and he was allowed to unleash a stinging drive which needed the Boro number one to tip round the post.

The big Australian was becoming increasingly busier and Gonzalez was next to test him as he was found by a Gerrard cross to the back post and he met the ball with a side-footed volley - but Schwarzer was there to get down and save.

Middlesbrough introduced Lee Cattermole and Massimo Maccarone to the fray - but it did little to alter the flow of the game as they remained camped in their own half.

In-turn Peter Crouch was introduced by Liverpool and the England striker soon had a wonderful chance to put his side ahead. Gonzalez for the first time in the game found his man with a cross but despite beating Schwarzer he could not find the net as Woodgate was there to head over with a great piece of defensive work.

A chorus of boos then greeted Bolo Zenden's introduction as The Reds went for the victory which their pressure deserved - but aside from a late Crouch header it never looked likely and indeed it ended goalless.

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Thor Zakariassen