Steven Gerrard scored a spectacular late winner as Liverpool came from behind to claim a fortunate 2-1 victory over Middlesbrough at Anfield on Saturday.
Trailing to Mido’s memorable long-distance strike, Liverpool appeared to have rescued a scarcely-deserved point with an own goal from Emanuel Pogatetz four minutes from time.
But in the last of the three minutes of stoppage time, David Wheater headed clear a hopeful long ball into the area from Xabi Alonso and Gerrard gathered the ball on the edge of the area before advancing and dispatching an unstoppable winner.
Middlesbrough’s efforts had been all the more impressive given that they had been unsettled even before kick-off when goalkeeper Brad Jones injured a finger in the warm-up and was replaced by young deputy Ross Turnbull, making just his sixth appearance for the club.
Fernando Torres, seeking to become the first Liverpool player ever to score in nine consecutive home games, remained a perpetual threat, flashing a header just wide from Alonso’s eighth minute cross.
Yet, when the best chance of the first half came his way in the 38th minute, he could only strike a disappointing effort against the leg of Pogatetz, coming away with a corner rather than the lead.
Liverpool ended that first period looking somewhat anxious and short on ideas. Robbie Keane had shown a flash of brilliance to set up his partner Torres for that last first half opening, but too often the new Liverpool pairing had seemed at odds.
Gerrard, so often his team’s inspiration, just missed the target with a powerful, side-footed shot from the edge of the area after just over half an hour but Middlesbrough – Robert Huth and Wheater in particular – defended manfully to protect their goal and young keeper.
Indeed Gareth Southgate’s ambitious wish to play in an attacking manner almost paid dividends.
In the 34th minute, England winger Stewart Downing surged between two markers on the edge of the Liverpool area and, having created space for himself, undid the good work with a shot which passed woefully wide of the goal.
Tuncay, exerting more influence on the game, almost produced one of the most audacious goal of this, or any other, season just after the hour following a left-wing cross from Egyptian substitute Mido.
The Turkish playmaker flicked the ball over his own head, preventing Jamie Carragher from getting in a challenge, and volleyed first time on goal.
Unfortunately, for the travelling fans, he struck the ball directly at goalkeeper Jose Reina.
A 25-yard shot from Torres suggested Liverpool were running short on ideas and, in the 69th minute, the home team’s troubles mounted as Mido shot his team into a deserved lead.
Alonso, not for the first time on the day, lost the ball in a dangerous position, allowing Gary O’Neil and Jeremie Aliadiere to combine, the latter’s square ball finding the unmarked Mido whose 25-yard shot sailed into the top of the Liverpool goal.
Liverpool were finally provoked into life and adopted a more direct approach to put the visitors under pressure.
After several close calls, the home team grabbed an equaliser, thanks to a large touch of fortune, five minutes from time. Alonso’s cross appeared to strike O’Neil’s hand and, while Liverpool appealed, Carragher had the intelligence to continue, drilling in a powerful shot that deflected off Pogatetz, wrong-footing Turnbull on its way into the goal.
Turnbull had to make a magnificent save from a Gerrard free-kick but the deputy keeper could take no blame for the winner that denied his team not only a deserved victory but even a solitary point.
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