Middlesbrough 2-0 Liverpool

Premier League
Saturday 28 February 2009 - 3:00 pm
Riverside Stadium
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If Liverpool are going to land the Premiership title this season, then an effort of more herculean proportions than Istanbul will be needed as Liverpool were sent reeling to their 2nd league defeat of the season at one of the reds most cursed away grounds.

Though starting brightly Liverpool were shocking.  The players severely underperformed and both Nabil El Zhar and Dirk Kuyt can consider themselves guilty as charged of wasting at least 4 clear goalscoring opportunities.

Both Arbeloa and Torres are out injured as the reds continue to struggle with injuries this season, and Benitez made 4 changes.  After some ropey performances from Carragher at right back, Skrtel was used there with Hyypia returning to the reds defence.

There was no surprise to see Riera dropped to the bench after his continual poor form, with Babel being handed a chance to show his ability. Gerrard returned to the side after injury to make his 300th Liverpool start, however one surprise was that El Zhar was drafted in for Yossi Benayoun – a player who has been excellent in recent weeks.

Liverpool started brightly, passing the ball around well and El Zhar had the first sniff of goal but fired the shot straight at the keeper.  Moments later Aurelio whipped in a fine cross which Kuyt did well to control, but he lashed the ball over the crossbar.

Then just past the half hour mark the reds suffered own-goal misery against the run of play.  Downing sent in a fine corner which bounced off Alonso’s shin and past Reina.  It was a huge blow, and Liverpool never looked the same side after it.  Whereas normally such a goal would spring Liverpool in to action their passing game disappeared and they struggled.

After the half time break Liverpool improved slightly, although El Zhar was again guilty of a shocking miss and then, yet again against the run of play, a qucik Boro move down the right caught the reds out and Tuncay fired home to double Boro’s advantage.

The reds had more chances and Kuyt should have scored when a ball flashed across the face of the goal but he couldn’t reach it in time.

In the end, Boro got their revenge for the reds last minute win at Anfield earlier this season and Liverpool’s players should be embarrassed about a lack of pride in wearing the shirt.

The title is looking further away than at any point this season.

Post Match Interviews

Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate:

“We have shown in the our last three games with four points from two league games and an FA Cup win how we can play.

“We have had four clean sheets in six games and the confidence is flowing back through the players and the crowd carried us through at the end.

“This win should give the players an unbelievable amount of belief.”

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez:

“In the first 30 minutes we had around five chances and we did not take them.

“If before this game it was going to be difficult to win the league then it is clearly now going to be even harder.

“We have to think about Sunderland next before preparing to face Real Madrid in the Champions League.”


Liverpool: Reina, Carragher (Benayoun 71), Hyypia, Skrtel, Aurelio, Alonso, Mascherano, Kuyt, Gerrard (Lucas 76), Babel, El Zhar (Ngog 68).

Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Dossena, Riera, Darby.

Middlesbrough: Jones, Hoyte, Wheater, Huth, Pogatetz, O’Neil, Bates, Arca (Walker 88), Downing, Sanli (Adam Johnson 79), Aliadiere (King 68).

Subs Not Used: Turnbull, Taylor, Emnes, Alves.

Booked: Sanli, Bates.

Goals: Alonso 32 og, Sanli 63.

Att: 33,724

Ref: Rob Styles (Hampshire).

16 comments on
Middlesbrough 2-0 Liverpool

  1. a top four team humiliated by a struggling middlesbrough who hadnt score a goal in over 500mins is this what it has come down to??? Its time for a change at anfield Rafa is just not up to the job his erratic decissions have cost us dearly this season and that is just a fact. This should have been our year we had plenty of oppertunities to get a good lead over united n chelsea but blew every chance we had and im afraid the buck stops wit Rafa and his negative boring football. I just dont enjoy watching liverpool play anymore which is a sad thing to say about the team i’ve supported all my life. We need a fresh start next season with a manager who plays attack minded football

  2. It was obvious that Skrtel cannot play at right back. He had probably his worst ever game for liverpool. I agree with a comment somewhere above, whats wrong with Stephen Darby? That would have been a game he could have shone in. Even Carra, hes played at right back countless times, so that was a bad choice. Its also becoming more and more clear that we definately need to strengthen up front but theres nothing that can be done about that until the summer really. I also agree with Lutfur Rahman above, pointing the finger at Rafa is not helpful everytime we get a bad result, get a grip fellas. This was just a bad performance. Although we did create enough good chances to have won this game comfortably even with theyre 2 goals. I know one thing though, my support will never fade and i think its a disgrace when peoples do. Liverpool fans are the best, and most loyal in the world so start acting like it.

  3. i dont know who to blame guys lets get our act together we are not a club that turn against our manager and players when things are bad remember we dont have the buying power to go out and buy 5 30m plus players who are matchwinners we have to make do with the funds we have and to be third obn the table wuth the squad we got and to beat madrid i give credit to rafa and the boys keep ur chins up rafa and the boys win ort lose i you guys will never walk alone thats what lfc is about we support with and play with our hearts

  4. Attacking positive football always wins in the vein of Arsenal who are struggling for 4th spot? How about Newcastle in 1995-96 who were 12 points clear and still bombed? What about Manchester Utd between 1986 and 1991? Managed by none other than one Alex Ferguson?

    I agree with the comments about Lucas and possibly Dossena, they haven’t looked up to it, but lets face it, no manager is immune to signing some rubbish. If memory serves me correctly Alex Ferguson did sign Djemba Djemba, Kleberson, Bellion, Anderson, Nani, Taibi, Bosnich, Veron, Blanc, Barthez, Neil Webb, Danny Wallace, I could go on, but the point is these players were a catastrophic waste of money. The difference is, that in recent years Utd have had the financial muscle to get away with it. They havent’t tried to build teams around the Klebersons etc because they can afford not to. We can’t. What about the genius of Mourinho who signed such distinguished pro’s as Kezman, Del Horno, Huth, Malouda, Ben Haim, Wright-Phillips, Boulahrouz, Kalou etc? If we had the financial clout to sign some of our targets in recent seasons would we have said Rafa’s signings are no good? Daniel Alves, Vidic, Simao, Quaresma, Heinze would add at least 20% to any squad.

    It’s clear that Rafa values systems, tactics and organisation more than flair and therefore likes to sign players that are adaptable. For me this explains why Barry was top of his list, because he can play in 3 positions. Since we can’t go out and sign 2 or 3 players costing £15-20m like Utd and Chelsea can each year the method of playing becomes more important than the personnel. If we tried to go gung-ho with the players we’ve got we’d be in a far worse position than we are, which lets face it, isn’t that bad. If we’d signed a few of those players mentioned above maybe we’d see a team capable of playing with more flair and have more attacking options. Recently Arsenal were drawing 0-0 at home with Sunderland with just a few minutes to go. This is a game in which Arsenal are desperate for points to help them achieve CL qualification in 4th spot. With the score at 0-0 and despite having the ‘attacking’ Aaron Ramsey on the bench, Wenger decided to bring on Eboue with 10 or so minutes to go. Hardly the type of player to turn a game. The point here is that no-one in the media slated Wenger for this afterwards and despite the obvious flaws in the Arsenal camp at the moment that has seen them drop from regular title contenders to a side battling for 5th / 4th spot, nobody has been suggesting that Wenger get fired.

    I’m not a beleiver in media conspiracies. I think th real enemies here are those two clowns running the club. The pair that promised us the Earth and delivered nothing. Rafa should be allowed a crack at signing some players at the top end of the transfer market just like Mourinho did at chelsea and Ferguson does every year at Utd. I’m not talking about the odd £20m + signing, I’m talking about getting to a level where the average cost of a player is approx £16-17m (as it is at Utd) and where we’re able to break the transfer record if we need to (something Ferguson has done more than any manager in English football history and something Liverpool have not done for 14 years).

  5. I think the main sentiment of the posts above are that a change of management is needed at Anfield.
    We have been found wanting all season and have had hugh slices of luck throughout this season. For example, we were dead and buried against Man City before they had a man sent off; the return game showed we had not progressed at all as a team.
    I personnally believe Rafa is too blame for three reasons.

    1) In general he has signed poor players since arriving at Anfield. For every Torres he has signed at least two other donkeys. He wants complete control over comings and goings at Anfield. How can he be taken serious by the powers that be when for example he signs Dossena for €8M while Insua is ready to come through. Also he signed Lucas for again approx €8M and sold Guthrie for €2M. He looks a good prospect at Newcastle and has contributed more to there cause than Lucas to ours. Rafa seems to want control over the academy but until he gains this is unwilling to promote and try players in the first team. Remember we have won the FA youth cup in recent seasons but no players have com through to date. Other clubs who have tasted sucess at this level have build from this promise (Man Utd & Villa to name two)

    2) Rafa’s tactics are very negative, he likes to control games, close the opposition down quickly and physically bully teams. This works in Europe but not the PL. This season we have failed to break down the weaker teams because they are happy to sit back and soak up this pressure. Rafa has not signed players with invention and a spark because they do not fit into his system. He has signed ordinary players who will work hard all day but will struggle to make something happen. I think he is happy to pick players that win the ball and then try play a counter attacking game.

    3) Again Rafa’s mentality to play defensive games comes into it. When we played Stoke home and away, we dropped 4 points. We could not break them down and struggled with at least 8 defensive minded players on the pitch. Rafa persisted with his system and refused to change. He should have started both games with 2 x upfront, an attacking CM & 2 x wingers. The net result was 4 dropped points.

    Now compare this to Sir Alex, he started against Stoke with an attacking lineup. With 20 minutes to go, he emptied his bench and went for bust. I reakon he would have brought on Solsker if allowed. Net result (Max points)

    This season we have 10 draws (10 points). If we played a more attacking game and took some risks in the last 20 minutes when playing weaker sides we may have got some more wins and possible some more losses. imagine if we had won 5 of these games and lost 5 (15 points) we would still be in touching distance of UTD.

    And to add insult to injury, we are still unbeaten against the top 4. That is papering over the cracks as we have dropped 24 points against the other 16 teams in the division.

    then again Rafa and his meery band on men will tell you that we only lost twice. Even with the two points for a win system, UTD would be ahead.


  6. We’ve got the players to get a result at a place like Boro, but those selected were woeful yesterday. Liverpool were comfortable, almost at walking pace until the first Boro goal went in. The collective malaise with which we started was impossible to shake off and if anything we got worse after the first Boro goal went in. Whether such slackness is down to the manager not motivating the players sufficiently remains to be seen. However, let me just say this. A group of players that are going for their first title in 19 years and have just beaten Real Madrid in their own back yard should not need any extrinsic motivation from the manager to get up for a game away at Middlesborough.

    It’s easy to criticise Rafa and say he’s doing this or that wrong, but anyone that’s played the game (or coached) will know that once those players cross the white line then they are pretty much on their own. This was after all only our second league defeat of the season. In adition, there have been plenty of people that have posted on this forum that have been clamouring for the the inclusion of players like El Zhar, Nemeth, Pacheco et al. Well El Zhar had his chance yesterday however he was found wanting. Rafa gets slated for not including him, and then slated for putting him in the side. What will happen if Nemeth plays and misses some chances? Wil he be another blunder by Rafa too. El Zhar is an international footballer so you would hope he would be able to hit a cows arse with a banjo, but yesterday that wasn’ to be. Sometimes the players have to be blamed, not the manager.

  7. Rafa Benitez chose and built this side up.Its pathetically weak and can never win a league title.You guys are dreaming.Time to catch a wake up and get rid of the source of all the trouble…Mr Benitez.He is a egotistical tyrant hell bent on power….and he’s abusing that power.
    He chooses the team and look at the garbage performance yesterday…doesnt that tell you that something is wrong.The players have lost respect for Benitez…he’s poor team selections and shocking tactical errors keep costing Liverpool.

  8. Pathetic, Where was the pride? How can Rafa leave out Benny after the performances he has been putting in lately? On the form since Xmas we will do well to finish 4th never mind winning the title! Sicknote Torres missing yet again when we need his goals! Kuyt…more misses in front of goal. So So dissappointed in this shambles. El Tel

  9. Skrtel is obviously not a right back and even though Downing was torturing him Rafa was either unable or unwilling to change it. You have got rid of so many top players and replaced them with substandard ones its unbelievable.

    You must hate it when punters say that you are a one man team, but I bet Torres wouldnt have missed those chances you had today. . Rafa is a total enigma to me. He can pick great teams for Europe, where everyone knows their jobs, yet He has no clue about picking a decent Prem side. He leaves quality on the bench, and plays weak players out of position, then wonders how it all went wrong.

    Its not all doom and gloom, but Liverpool have been winning DESPITE Rafa, not because of him. .

    You surely should have known what Boro are capable of, because they nearly beat you at Anfield earlier in the season, and all the pundits acknowledged that Boro were playing good football but with poor finishing. They added the finishing today and Liverpool paid the price. .

  10. This is a post about the Middlesbrough game. If you want a discussion about Rafa then login to the forum.

    Or are you the one who was banned for admitting he was getting paid by George Gillett’s PR team to post anti-Rafa messages on the internet?

  11. Yes Anfield Online (whoever you are) the whole point of our posts was clearly that Benitez personally missed those chances and had personally scored an own goal. According to your brainless logic no manager can ever be criticised unless he personally plays badly on the field (which means Ally McLeod and Christian Gross were actually not bad managers after all) but of course when the Reds next win a game it will all be about Rafa and how he “masterminded” the result. You won’t be reminding anyone that Stevie G scored the goal and not Benitez or that Carra that tackle and not Benitez. I guess what I’m trying to say is wake up you Chump !! This was just another poor performance in a long line of them and coaches (even Benitez) have to occasionally take some responsibility for how the players they buy, coach and select perform and for the tactics they employ. I dare you to be brave enough to print this post and lets have some rational debate about just how much of a “genius” Benitez really is. The truth is if he had just shut his trap this season and managed the resources available to him to best effect instead of making this entire season all about Rafa Benitez then this really would have been our year. Instead we’re now third (and sinking) and have been left for dead long before the end of February. Well done Rafa….you’ll get the freedom of the City of Manchester for your performance this season.

  12. Knee jerk central.

    It was definitely El Zhar who missed two sitters and Dirk Kuyt who missed two sitters today, not Benitez.

    And I’ve just checked again and yep – Alonso scored the own goal. Not Rafa.

    Get a grip the pair of you.

  13. Middlesbrough may have been in terrible form before playing us but so were Portsmouth and Man City so this result should not surprise anyone who’s really been watching us lately. Nicking a good result against an insipid Real Madrid in midweek only served to paper over the cracks which have been evident since early December when we deservedly drew three relatively easy games in a row and have never really recovered a winning touch. Apart from Torres we do not have a single striker or right sided attacking player in the entire squad who has any more finesse than a donkey. That is the inescapable truth about Rafa Benitez’s recruitment policies. Can someone please tell What is so wrong with Stephen Darby that we have to play centre backs out of position to avoid giving him a game ?? The irony is that the only youth players Benitez is willing to trust are those (Lucas, Ngog, El Zhar and Babel) that no-one else rates while the real jewels like Insua and Darby (not to mention the currently injured Nemeth & Pacheco) can forget about it. There is no Robbie Keane or Rick Parry to blame now Rafa.

  14. Rafa at work again. Any positives?

    How can he go on like this? Selling Robbie Keane when he was available, loaning out Voronin when he’s firing on all four cylinders! We loaned out the youngsters too!

    Oh yes, we have got strikers by the dozen (nabil, ngog etc). An injury to Torres and SG and we are all *** up.

    Since Rafa made those comments agains SF we have only regressed. What happened to Agger?

    Is this football management? Having players worth millions and sitting them off! Crouch, Pennant, Voronin, Keane, Agger and so on. Even Babel has been used sparingly until today – how can there be team gel??????

    We are laborious in our passing, sluggish to attack.

    Tactics are wrong. We needed a strong striker for headers and to act as a kingpin for the other striker.

    Apart from all this the management trouble doesn’t help. Both owners are waging war, they wage war with the gaffer, the gaffer with Rick Parry and then why bring out in public the Rick Parry resignation!

    Stinks of bad management all over – top to bottom.

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