Middlesbrough 1 Liverpool 1: Liverpool lose the plot amid headlines and intrigue

What does it reveal of the state of Liverpool and the status of Newcastle United that a man of Sami Hyypia's experience, a 34-year-old into his ninth season at Anfield, could say the following after this latest strange performance from Rafael Benitez's side? "The players hope, if there are some arguments, that they can be sorted out. We seem to be becoming like Newcastle. Every time we pick up a paper, there seems to be something new."

In itself, this 70 minutes of vague football followed by 20 minutes of frantic and incoherent attack, was not enough to provoke such an opinion. It is the accumulation of factors.

A third consecutive draw is one of them. It leaves Liverpool, just over halfway through the League campaign, 33-1 to win their first title since 1990, and you can get longer odds if you search. Everton, Aston Villa and Manchester City have the same points (39) and it is Villa at Anfield a week today. Twelve points behind Manchester United and Arsenal, Liverpool are now closer in points to 10th-placed West Ham than third-placed Chelsea.

Then there were Saturday morning's headlines. These showed again that Benitez's job had been offered to Jürgen Klinsmann before the German picked Bayern Munich. Liverpool's American owners have done Benitez no favours and if he is furious on a personal level with them it is fully justified. Because on a professional level they have winded Benitez. Badly.

Is that why, after a breezy opening 11 minutes, Liverpool drifted, then barely moved for an hour? Players of the dynamism of Steven Gerrard were listless, Fernando Torres was not being given a kick. As Hyypia said, the players read the papers and know there are "some arguments". We may say it should not affect players on the pitch; but only they know if it does.

It feels as if only a sudden rush of victories could save this situation. Liverpool do possess a template of how that can happen, as in the last 20 minutes, with Ryan Babel introduced on the left to stretch a previously compact Middlesbrough with his pace and energy, there was an urgency that offered hope.

Torres' goal, his 17th of the season, came in the 71st minute and was beautiful to behold, a diamond strike from 25 yards on the run that zipped in off the inside of Mark Schwarzer's right-hand post.

But there has to be a will to play that way from kick-off and, from what we know of Benitez, that is not his philosophy. Away from home it is all about the counter-attack, even against sides as brittle in confidence as Boro.

It has hardly been a smooth few months for Gareth Southgate either – he has had a run-in with scorer, and friend, George Boateng – but at least Southgate knows he has the club's chairman, Steve Gibson, on his side. "Crackers," was Southgate's assessment of the climate of pressure, "so it doesn't surprise me. Clearly his [Benitez's] record is outstanding. "

Goals: Boateng (26) 1-0; Torres (71) 1-1.

Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Young, Huth, Wheater, Grounds; O'Neil, Boateng, Rochemback, Downing; Tuncay, Aliadière (Hutchinson, 74). Substitutes not used: Turnbull (gk), Riggott, Lee, Johnson.

Liverpool (4-4-2): Reina; Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Arbeloa (Babel, h-t); Benayoun (Alonso, 59) Mascherano, Gerrard, Riise; Voronin (Kuyt, 75) Torres. Substitutes not used: Itandje (gk), Agger.

Referee: A Marriner (West Midlands).

Booked: Middlesbrough Huth; Liverpool Alonso.

Man of the match: O'Neil.

Attendance: 33,035.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleComedian launches stinging attack on PM
Life and Style
The collection displayed Versace’s softer side, with models wearing flowers and chiffon dresses in unusual colourings
fashionVersace haute couture review
Arts and Entertainment
'The Leaf'
artYes, it's a leaf, but a potentially very expensive one
News
Yoko Ono at the Royal Festival Hall for Double Fantasy Live
people'I wont let him destroy memory of John Lennon or The Beatles'
News
Could Greece leave the EU?
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'