Gerrard industry goes unrewarded


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The Independent Football

While Arsenal and Chelsea have made a virtue of 1-0 victories in recent seasons, Liverpool have found such crucial clean sheets elusive, particularly away from Anfield.

That, you suspect, is about to change. Whether it will be enough to propel the European champions into a realistic challenge for the title remains to be seen.

But Liverpool served notice here that they will be difficult to beat. And, if Gerrard remains fit, the goals will surely follow.

It is a measure of Gerrard's performance that Middlesbrough's players could talk of little else in their dressing-room after the final whistle.

The manager Steve McClaren and his captain Gareth Southgate both chose the same adjective - awesome - to describe Gerrard's relentless contribution. "We thought at one stage that he was heading in his own crosses," Southgate said.

And Gerrard's new team-mate Boudewijn Zenden added: "What can you say? He is up there with [Edgar] Davids and [Clarence] Seedorf and the best I have played alongside."

Gerrard was responsible for seven attempts on Mark Schwarzer's goal, starting with the clearest opportunity which he shot over the bar in the 21st minute.

"I'm disappointed not to have scored, but I was happy with my own performance and the goals will come," he said.

Benitez is unconcerned by their reliance on Gerrard. He said: "I like to see Steven creating opportunities, but it is not true to say the rest of the side have done a bad job. It's good if it means defenders are watching strikers and our midfielders can go into the box."

Similar forward forays were a rarity for Middlesbrough, where a fierce fans' debate has developed about McClaren's approach. A proportion are demanding more flair and their argument was given impetus by this hesitant show.

Reduced to 10 men by the dismissal of Ugo Ehiogu for a 75th-minute foul on Gerrard, the home side opted to waste time when they won a corner in the closing stages. It did not go down well with the majority of the home supporters.

McClaren was unapologetic. He said: "I think the team have got the message that when you are happy with what you have got, you run the clock down. I think it worked very well."

Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Reiziger, Ehiogu, Southgate, Queudrue; Mendieta (Nemeth, 65), Boateng, Parlour, Downing; Hasselbaink (Viduka, 67), Yakubu (Bates, 75). Substitutes not used: Jones (gk), Doriva.

Liverpool (4-5-1): Reina; Finnan, Hyypia, Carragher, Warnock; Garcia (Cissé, 57), Sissoko, Alonso, Gerrard, Zenden; Morientes (Baros, 67). Substitutes not used: Carson (gk), Riise, Whitbread.

Referee: M Halsey (Lancashire).

Booked: Middlesbrough Parlour, Queudrue; Liverpool Alonso, Garcia, Sissoko.

Sent off: Middlesbrough Ehiogu (75).

Man of the match: Gerrard.

Attendance: 31,908.