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?
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

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?