After The Match 


Middlesbrough-Liverpool 2-0 (1-0)        28.2.09                   PL
Goals: Alonso  (og 31), Tuncay (63)
Team: Reina, Aurelio, Hyypia, Skrtel, Carragher, Alonso, Gerrard, Babel, Mascherano, El Zhar, Kuyt
Subs: Ngog (El Zhar 68), Benayoun (Carragher 71),
Lucas (Gerrard 77)
Not used: Cavalieri, Dossena, Riera, Darby
Yellow: Tuncay (64), Bates (76)
Red: None
Referee: Rob Styles
Attendance: 33,724
Shots on target: 3-4
Shots off target: 2-12
Blocked shots: 0-7
Fouls conceded: 11-7
Corners: 2-9
Offsides: 6-2
Possession: 28-72
Yellow: 2-0
HEADLINES "If you want
to stay at
the top of
the table you have to score."
Rafael Benitez
0303: This summer could be
          Liverpool FC's most important eve
0203: Aurelio rues Boro defeat
0203: Liverpool FC have blown title race
2802: Boost for Boro belief
2802: Rafa: Title more difficult now
2802: Boro dent Reds title hopes 

This summer could be
Liverpool FC's most important ever

Liverpool Daily Post

This summer could prove to be the most important in Liverpool FC’s history. The off-the-field issues that have yet to be resolved are potentially so important that they could make even the decision over Rafael Benitez’s contract of secondary importance.

On the pitch, Saturday’s 2-0 defeat to relegation-threatened Middlesbrough was a bizarre way to end a bizarre week.

There had been the rumours that Rafael Benitez was about to leave Anfield but for now he insists he’s staying.

Amongst all this there was the terrific 1-0 win at Real Madrid in the Champions League but then it emerged that long-serving chief executive Rick Parry is to quit the club in the summer.

Obviously none of us know the finer details of all the ins and outs when it comes to running the club but it seems to me that Parry’s position had become untenable with co-owner Tom Hicks.

I also don’t see how Parry’s relationship with Benitez could ever have been the same after his knowledge of the infamous meeting with Jurgen Klinsmann.

When it comes to the subject of trust, the Spaniard might be thinking ‘What else don’t I know?’ – after all we all know how much Benitez likes to control everything.

It all seems such a mess behind the scenes but the situation could become even more serious this summer after Parry leaves.

Hicks and Gillett have been given until the end of July to re-finance the loan they used to finance their purchase of the club and as it stands there’s no guarantee that they’ll be able to make this payment.

If the bank forecloses them and takes control of Liverpool FC off them then who knows what might happen.

The bank might decide to sell the club for considerably less than what the Americans are looking to get and it could even be a chance for the fans to get their club back.

I’ll never know what Rafael Benitez was thinking when he decided to go with Martin Skrtel at right-back at Middlesbrough on Saturday.

Okay Alvaro Arbeloa was injured but why not move Jamie Carragher across, he’s played in that position to good effect on many occasions down the years.

When Carragher does play at right-back he’s great when he’s up against someone and he gets close and likes the challenge.

As far as I’m aware Skrtel has never played in that position before, certainly not for Liverpool and I felt sorry for him because he looked like as fish out of water and just got worse and worse.

Skrtel was put up against Stewart Downing and when you’re playing Gareth Southgate’s side then it’s more or less a case of if you stop Downing you stop Middlesbrough.

After the win in Madrid it was a downer to go from a real high to a real low.

With Manchester United playing in the Carling Cup Final this was also a chance to put some pressure on them but instead they’ll just be laughing.

After looking like the team to beat from August to December, Liverpool’s title challenge seems to have fallen apart.

We’re back to square one when it comes to messing about with players.

Dossena and Lucas came in against Manchester City and are clearly not good enough while after looking like a proper player Riera has been taken out and put back in and it looks like it’s messed with his head.

Mark Lawrenson was talking to CHRISTOPHER BEESLEY

Aurelio rues Boro defeat

Sky Sports

Liverpool defender Fabio Aurelio admitted the weekend defeat by Middlesbrough was a missed opportunity in the title race.

The Reds slumped to only their second defeat in the Premier League this season after Middlesbrough recorded a 2-0 victory at the Riverside.

The defeat means Liverpool remain seven points behind leaders Manchester United having played a game more with their title hopes hanging by a thread.

Aurelio admits the players were disappointed with the manner of the defeat at Middlesbrough and has called on his team-mates to get back to winning ways against Sunderland on Tuesday night.

"We are very disappointed because we felt we had enough chances to win the game in the first half," Aurelio told the club's official website.

"We lost a great opportunity to try to get closer to Manchester United but we must bounce back now and beat Sunderland at Anfield on Tuesday night.

"I thought we started really well. We kept the ball and had good opportunities but we couldn't score. When that happens there is always the chance the opposition can score.

"Unfortunately we conceded a goal from a corner, which was hard to take. In the second half we didn't create as many chances but we still had some good opportunities.

"Middlesbrough got every man behind the ball and made it difficult for us. They scored the second goal from a counter-attack when we lost the ball. That was disappointing.

"We will still keep on fighting because we know in football that anything can happen. We won't give up and we will now try to win every game."

Liverpool FC have
blown title race

By Ian Doyle - Daily Post

Middlesbrough defender David Wheater believes Liverpool lost their chance of winning the Premier League title with defeat at Riverside.

An own goal from Xabi Alonso and a second-half strike by Tuncay Sanli sent Rafael Benitez’s side tumbling to a 2-0 loss on Saturday.

The defeat, only Liverpool’s second in 27 league games this season, means the Anfield outfit remain seven points adrift of champions Manchester United having played a game more.

Liverpool have also dropped down to third after being surpassed by Chelsea on goal difference.

And Middlesbrough centre-back Wheater has pinpointed Tuncay’s 63rd-minute effort as the point of no return for the championship aspirations of Benitez’s side.

“When we scored our second their heads dropped a bit,” he said. “Then we were on top. They were expecting to win but we came out for the second half really well, something we have not been doing.

“You could almost say when we scored our second goal that it was the moment they lost the title.

“It’s Manchester United all the way, most people know that. They will push them but they won’t win it.”

Boost for Boro belief

Sky Sports

Middlesbrough will be assured Premier League football next season if they can repeat their display against Liverpool week-in, week-out, according to Matt Le Tissier.

Gareth Southgate's side secured a precious league victory thanks to Xabi Alonso's own goal and a Tuncay Sanli strike, putting a massive dent in Liverpool's fading title aspirations in the process.

To make matters worse Steven Gerrard limped off late on - albeit possibly with cramp - leaving Le Tissier to reflect: "Pretty much everything went wrong for Liverpool to be honest, although they started the game pretty well in all fairness.

"They had two or three good chances early on; Brad Jones made a couple of decent saves but as soon as they went a goal down there just didn't seem to be the belief that they could get back into it.

"There was a big turning point for me just after half-time; Nabil El Zhar had a fantastic chance. Gerrard inevitably created it by pulling the ball back and El Zhar's only 10 yards out on his left foot and he's managed to scoop it over the crossbar.

"From that point on Middlesbrough seemed to grow in belief. They got the second goal. Tuncay took it well after Jeremie Aliadiere did really good work down the right-hand side.

"At 2-0 Gerrard got injured, Kuyt had one decent chance where the ball was squared across by Gerrard again that he should have scored but that was it. As soon as Gerrard went off there was not an ounce of creativity in the side and they looked bereft of any ideas going forward."

Le Tissier felt that Liverpool - so impressive in Wednesday's 1-0 Champions League victory over Real Madrid when Yossi Benayoun scored the winner - were hampered by "a couple of strange decisions".

"Martin Skrtel does not look like a right-back to me in any way, shape or form," he said. "I'm not quite sure what he was doing playing there.

"He looked out of his depth and Stewart Downing down the left-hand side gave him a torrid time. It was one of the best games I've seen Downing have for a long time. And the guy who scored the winning goal in Madrid gets left on the substitutes' bench."

But the day belonged to Boro and, although they are hovering precariously above the relegation zone, Le Tissier does not fear for their long-term future providing their standards don't slip.

"If they do that every week, they will survive," he said. "Ok, they had a little bit of luck to get going with the own goal; if Gareth had been working on that in training fair play to him!

"But once they got their noses in front they did defend like the proverbial beavers."

Rafa: Title more difficult now

By Jimmy Rice at the Riverside - LFC Official Website

Rafa Benitez refused to call time on the title race after the 2-0 defeat to Middlesbrough - but admitted the Premier League was now Manchester United's
to lose.

The Reds slumped to only their second league defeat of the season after Tuncay added to a Xabi Alonso own goal.

A victory for Chelsea over Wigan means Liverpool now sit third in the Premier League, seven points behind Alex Ferguson's front runners.

Benitez said: "Before the game it was difficult and after it is more difficult. We will see against Sunderland and try to improve but it depends on United now.

"If you want to stay at the top of the table you have to score.

"I will not say too much because for me it's clear that in the first 20 minutes we created five chances and you have to take chances if you want to win.

"We had some problems and injures - some players were tired but we had chances. We were in control for the first 30 minutes. Middlesbrough did well in the second half."

Liverpool's day got worse on 77 minutes when the returning Steven Gerrard had to be withdrawn after picking up a knock.

However, Benitez revealed afterwards that the injury was unlikely to keep him out of Tuesday's visit of Sunderland.

"He had cramps. I don't think it will be serious," said the boss.

Boro dent Reds title hopes

By Toby Davis - Setanta Sports

Struggling Middlesbrough hammered a nine-inch nail into Liverpool’s title challenge coffin with a remarkable 2-0 victory at The Riverside.

The Reds may have beaten Real Madrid in midweek, but they were humbled in spectacular fashion on Teesside, effectively wrapping up the Premier League trophy and handing it to Manchester United.

Xabi Alonso put through his own net to hand Boro the lead in the first half while Tuncay Sanli put the game to bed with a composed finish in the second.

The win was Boro's first in The Premier League for 14 games, lifting them out of the relegation zone in the process, no doubt coming as a welcome relief to boss Gareth Soutgate.

But the scoreline perhaps flattered Boro as Rafa Benitez’s side dominated from start to finish – and were it not for some woeful finishing - The Reds could well have come out on top.

Nabil El Zhar missed a gilt-edged chance to find the net early in the second half, but Dirk Kuyt came up with a viable candidate for miss of the season when he missed his kick from five yards with the goal gaping.

Victory at the Bernabeu in midweek should have strengthened the Liverpool manager’s stranglehold on the club. After all, if you cannot sleep soundly after adding to a catalogue of great European nights, with victory in the backyard of arguably the world’s biggest club, then it is time to reach for the Night Nurse.

But if reports are to be believed, the Liverpool boss is still lingering around the threshold of the Anfield exit door, with some quarters of the Anfield support and maybe even some within the boardroom, unconvinced he is the man to deliver the Holy Grail, The Premier League. This result will certainly not help his cause.

While the Liverpool boss has undoubtedly created a European powerhouse, his current side seem all too often and all too easily frustrated on home soil.

The patience and resilience that brings success on the continent seem insufficient qualities to deliver a Premier League title and the secret formula that enables a side to break down an opponent who has decided to defend in numbers was certainly absent at The Riverside.

The Reds had a string of half chances in the first half that they were unable to convert with El Zhar, Ryan Babel, Steven Gerrard and Kuyt all guilty of failing to find the target.

El Zhar, enjoying a rare chance to impress from the start, exchanged passes with Dirk Kuyt on eight minutes, but could not beat Brad Jones when through on goal.

While six minutes later and it was Kuyt who fluffed an opportunity to open the scoring, unable to keep his shot below the bar after a cross from Fabio Aurelio found him unmarked in the box.

When Babel added his name to the list of Liverpool players to miss good chances 15 minutes in, there would have been a sense of déjà vu among the travelling support.

And after Steven Gerrard failed to squeeze a shot past Jones from a tight angle on the half hour, it seemed almost inevitable that Boro would take the lead.

The goal duly arrived barely a minute later in a cruel and unfortunate manner. An innocuous corner from the right hit Alonso on the knee and bobbled past Jose Reina with a sigh of apology.

No doubt Benitez impressed upon his players at half time the need to convert their chances. Sadly for the Spaniard, El Zhar was not listening.

Within two minutes of the restart the Moroccan had wasted the best chance Liverpool could have hoped for. It was one of those that Harry Redknapp’s wife would have tucked away.

Steven Gerrard, perhaps lacking a bit of vim and vigour after his injury lay-off, burst into the box and cut the ball back to El Zhar. It was the footballing equivalent of sticking the ball on a plate, slapping a napkin on his lap and inviting him to tuck in. But El Zhar declined the opportunity to gobble up the chance and somehow skied his effort over the bar.

If El Zhar wanted a lesson in how to put the ball in the back of the net, he got it on 62 minutes when Tuncay doubled Boro’s advantage.

Jeremie Aliadiere broke down the right at pace and crossed into the middle where Tuncay was waiting completely unmarked 12 yards from goal. The striker controlled calmly and placed a composed finish neatly past Reina into the bottom corner.

Boro were in control, but still looked vulnerable and if it were not for Kuyt’s shocking mis-kick from five yards, their advantage would have been reduced to the solitary goal.

Gerrard charged into the penalty area and pulled the ball back across the face of goal only for Kuyt to hopelessly fail from five yards. It simply was not going to be Liverpool’s day.

Marlon King can feel a touch hard done-by that he did not add to the 2-0 score-line, drawing a good save from Reina on 72 minutes before putting the ball in the back of the net at the death only to see his effort ruled out for offside.

For Benitez the result perhaps underlines his side's fallibility in The Premier League. They have, after all, failed to secure wins in games they should do all too often this season. For Southgate, it was the perfect end to a great week after Wednesday's FA Cup success.

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Thor Zakariassen ©