Middlesbrough, after a disappointing opener which saw them beaten at home by Bradford, have now won their last three games and Ince has played in all three. In the previous two he suffered cramp with 10 minutes remaining, but on Saturday he made his presence felt throughout.
"Incey was outstanding," said his manager Bryan Robson. "He was nice and controlled throughout." Although his tongue still appears barbed - witness the berating Phil Stamp received after six minutes when he let the ball dribble out - and his tackles still have bite - witness the first- half clattering Redknapp received in retribution for his part in Paul Gascoigne's departure after 20 minutes of ineffective play - Ince was cast as peacemaker during an unseemly scrap on the half hour, in which one head-stamp was seen, one punch was thrown, and two names were taken.
Michael Owen on a white charger is coming over the horizon, but won't reach the camp in time for tonight's encounter at Leeds and, although Titi Camara regularly had the Riverside crowd biting their nails at his power and skill, Robbie Fowler was the prime culprit for the lack of finishing bemoaned by the Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier. He squandered a good chance in the sixth minute, when he wrong-sided Pallister, and pulled wide a dream strike from the edge of the area in the 88th minute, when he should have done better.
Ince would also have added some certainty to a defence where Sami Hyypia's hashed clearances gave Middlesbrough unwanted hope at the dog-end of the first half. It was his inconclusive challenge on Hamilton Ricard, plus the confusing tactic of both Christian Ziege and Keith O'Neill working the left flank, that resulted in Brian Deane scoring the game's only goal from a Ziege cross.
Goal: Deane (49) 1-0.
Middlesbrough (5-3-2): Schwarzer; Stamp (Mustoe, 84), Festa, Pallister, Vickers, Ziege; Gascoigne (O'Neill, 19), Ince, Townsend; Deane, Ricard (Campbell, 88). Substitutes not used: Roberts (gk), Maddison.
Liverpool (5-3-2): Westerveld; Heggem, Matteo, Hyypia, Carragher, Staunton (Meijer, 81); Berger (Thompson, 65), Redknapp, Gerrard; Camara, Fowler. Substitutes not used: Friedel (gk), Song, Traore.
Referee: S Dunn (Bristol).
Bookings: Middlesbrough: Stamp, Townsend, O'Neill. Liverpool: Fowler, Camara, Gerrard.
Man of the match: Ziege.