Sunday, 24 February 2008

Fernando gives Boro Torr-id time

Its Torres again - bugger

An afternoon of promise at Anfield ended in defeat yesterday. Abject defensive errors allowed Liverpool to steal all three points in a game where Boro had looked comfortable leaders. However, at the risk of sounding like Paul Collingwood in the aftermath of another England pounding, there were plenty of positives to be taken from the game.

As Gareth Southgate himself states, the real disappointment at not taking at least a point is a measure of the progress made in recent months. The team posed a real threat against a nominal member of the self-styled 'Big 4'.

Liverpool's patchwork defence was quickly exposed. A pitiful offside trap failed, leaving the returning Tuncay Sanli at the head of a queue of Boro players to nod past Reina. Thereafter, Boro seemed in total control, composed at the back and busy in midfield. The home side were growing frustrated, their passing wayward. Steven Gerrard displayed an uncanny knack of picking out the bloke in row five with his endless Hollywood balls.

Boro's serenity was broken by a horrible error by the increasingly erratic Julio Arca. A ludicrous attempt to head the ball back to Schwarzer sent Fernando Torres clean through and the Spaniard's composed finish was inevitable. Much the same as it was when he was left a free shot twenty-five yards out. Advantage to deficit in one torrid minute.

A composed start to the second half was undone by another calamitous error. Wheater dithered over a long ball while Schwarzer inexplicably raced from his goal. Torres rolled the ball into a forlorn, gaping goalmouth to comeplete his hat trick. Having performed strongly for much of the opening hour, Boro trailed 3-1 and were in danger of a dicking.

The response was pleasingly resolute. Boro stuck at their task and Arca played a magnificent pass to cut open the correct defence this time. Stewart Downing capped another strong display with a well-taken goal. Any chance of an equaliser was undermined by Jeremie Aliadiere's foolish dismissal. While the contact was minimal and no worse than Mascherano's provocation, Aliadiere gave the referee a decision to make, and at Anfield, they tend to go one way.

Player Ratings

1 Schwarzer 6
Solid enough save for howler for Torres' third.
2 Young 6 Dealt with lively Babel well for the most part.
40 Grounds 8* Another solid display. Promising.
31 Wheater 6 Could have closed down Torres for second goal.
6 Pogatetz 7 Can't be faulted for Liverpool goals.
4 O'Neil 6 Struggled to make an impact.
19 Downing 7 Once again, Boro's most potent attacking threat.
10 Rochemback 6 Tidy rather than influential.
3 Arca 6 Excellent pass for Downing's goal but too many errors.
17 Tuncay 7 Very bright first half. Faded.
11 Aliadiere 6 Hard running but struggled to make an impact. Stupid red card.

Its Sheffield United in the crucial FA Cup replay next. Another obstacle cleared on the path to Wembley and the disappointment of Anfield will be forgotten. Wheater and Aliadiere will be suspended but with Robert Huth returning and Mido and Afonso Alves waiting in the wings, Boro should be able to absorb those losses.

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