Mellor shines as Liverpool remember Crazy Horse

Liverpool 2 Middlesbrough 0
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The Independent Football

It wasn't achieved with the brilliance of Arsenal's win on Tuesday but Liverpool ended Middlesbrough's reign as League Cup holders in another meeting of shadow sides last night.

Two goals from Neil Mellor in the last seven minutes made up for the rookie striker's earlier misses and raised Anfield hopes of trophy success in the first season under new management.

Not that this particular prize is seriously targeted in the initial rounds these days. The sense of absence, brought into focus by the minute's silence for Emlyn Hughes, was intensified by the team selections.

The two managers put the competition in its place by making no fewer than 15 changes between them to the sides who started at the weekend.

There were shades of Crazy Horse in some of the early work of Igor Biscan. Biscan was again the driving force as his advance paved the way for Sinama-Pongolle to bring a brave block from Nash. As the ball ran loose, Mellor seemed surprised by Warnock's centre and couldn't keep his headerdown.

The poor quality of Middlesbrough's crossing from the left, where Franck Queudrue was the offender rather than Stewart Downing, repeatedly had Steve McClaren off his seat in the stand in exasperation.

The manager's hopes were raised just before the break when Bolo Zenden fired home but the flag was already raised for offside. Boro threatened again after the break when Job dragged his shot across goal from Downing's pass. The effort rather typified the inferiority of two weakened attacks against steady defences. Three times in quick succession Mellor took aim from unlikely positions, shooting off target either side.

Downing had been subdued until delivering a corner of wicked menace that Zenden stretched to head over from two yards. Liverpool substitute Ritchie Partridge was harshly refused a penalty when blatantly tripped by Quedrue before, on the counter-attack, Job thumped a left-foot shot against the foot of the post.

But Partridge, whose arrival had increased the tempo, fed Mellor to shoot past Nash for the breakthrough. And Mellor made it two with a left-foot shot in at the near post a minute from time.

Liverpool (4-4-2): Dudek; Finnan, Henchoz, Whitbread, Traore; Potter, Biscan, Diao (Welsh, 75), Warnock (Riise, 82); Sinama-Pongolle (Partridge, 69), Mellor. Substitutes not used: Luzi (gk), Raven.

Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Nash; Davies, Cooper, Riggott, Queudrue; Morrison (Graham, 81), Doriva, Zenden, Downing; Job, Viduka. Substitutes not used: Schwarzer (gk), Boateng, Wilson, McMahon.

Referee: H Webb (S Yorkshire).