The Reds kept the pressure on the sides around them whilst keeping their own destiny in their hands. Two quick fire goals did the trick early in the second half. A change of tactics from the Reds at the start of the second half gave them better shape and this time the Reds got the breakthrough and although kept looking back they managed to hold firm and run out two nil winners.
The Reds came out as You'll Never Walk Alone neared it's end and each and every player had his name chanted in the warm up. The Reds lost the toss and were forced to attack the Kop end in the first half. Before the game got started Stevie G called for a team huddle and it certainly got the Reds up for it based on some of the early tackles that flew in.
The Reds were up for this one it has to be said and despite playing just one man up front it didn't seem to affect things in the first ten fifteen minutes. The idea was to score early so the visitor's didn't turn defensive. Boro though certainly came looking for three points and at times played some good football in this game. The Reds went really close on two minutes as Harry Kewell was set free left side and stung Schwarzer's hands with a stunning shot on target. Kewell then went close two minutes later but again Schwarzer saved the shot.
Steven Gerrard picked up a needless booking on five minutes which affected his play from then on. D'Urso for some reason called a free kick but Gerrard thumped the ball forward to start a Reds attack. D'Urso deemed it as kicking it away and having already spoken to Gerrard produced a yellow card for him. The free kick conceded was hit by Mendieta just wide of the Reds' goal.
One of the best chances of the half fell to Job who got the ball from Maccarone in the centre of the area. Personally at that point I envisaged the net bulging but Dudek pulled off a superb save with his legs and the Reds breathed again. A minute later at the other end Owen jinked free of his marker and let rip with a superb right footed shot which hit the foot of the post and went to safety.
The game was flowing well but it was the Reds who were creating the openings as the Boro back line looked on edge. Murphy forced Schwarzer in to another save just short of the half hour from a free kick that for once beat the wall. Gerrard then shot wide just after the half hour mark when set up by Smicer although the Reds did get a corner kick from it.
The Reds had the ball in the net on thirty five minutes but it was ruled out as the linesman had his flag up. The first reaction was that it was probably right given how far in front of everyone Hamann and Kewell were but having watched it on TV later the decision was wrong. That is if you apply the daylight rule when the ball is played at least but it was Hamann that was ruled offside on this occasion.
Boro were still looking to play some good football and on a couple of occasion cut through the Reds with ease. Six minutes before the break one such move allowed Maccarone far too much time on the right of the box but his shot hit the side netting. Just short of the half time whistle Smicer got a knock on the knee which would prove the end of his game.
The Reds made two switches at half time with Finnan and Heskey coming on for Smicer and Henchoz. The two Reds had been put through their paces at half time by Sammy Lee and the pitch was heavily watered from all angles at the interval too.
The changes forced a switch in tactics as the Reds finally went with two up front. In the first two minutes of the half Owen forced Schwarzer in to two saves. Better would follow soon after. On forty nine minutes Michael Owen nipped in front of his man to collect a cross from Finnan. Owen shimmied round his man and as he shaped to shoot was brought down by his marker. Danny Murphy stepped up and confidently slotted the ball in at the far right hand post despite Schwarzer going the right way.
The Reds took heart from the goal and doubled their advantage just three minutes later through Heskey who in fairness had changed the game for the Reds. Owen had the ball fired at him on the edge of the area and as he flicked it past his man with his outstretched toe Heskey raced through to slam the ball past the on rushing Schwarzer.
The lead as now there and the Reds were finding more gaps to go through as Boro had to pile forward even more in search of at least a point. The Reds produced couple of great moves, none better than on the hour mark as five players got involved in a superb one touch moved down the left but as the final ball came in Boro managed to poke it clear for a corner. This was so much better but didn't last long enough as the Reds started to ease off and invite pressure on to themselves.
Hamann made a superb tackle on Job on sixty two minutes as the Boro striker burst through the midfield towards goal. A superb tackle from behind saw Hamann not only win the ball but also keep Red possession. Boro made two switches then as Riggott and Maccarone went off to be replaced by Nemeth and Downing.
The changes seemed to affect the Reds' play though as they started to sit back and invite pressure on to themselves. Kewell sat back and rarely moved off the same piece of turf for the last half hour and on the other side the Reds were playing very narrow.
On sixty seven minutes Danny Mills hit a woeful shot twenty yards wide of the goal and received huge applause for it. The baldy cheat had tried to con the ref in the first half by falling over on the centenary side. Mills at the time was incensed and even had words with the assistant referee but wasn't carded. Mills was booed for the remainder of the game.
The Reds simply didn't seem able to hold the ball in the last twenty minutes and had Boro managed to beat Dudek in the Reds' goal who knows what would have happened. That was the last twenty minutes summed up though - Fear. Two nil up and finding the holes in the opposition half was an invitation to better the goal difference but we sat back and reverted to type once again. That Boro didn't score again tended to be down to two players really - Carragher who was now at centre back and Hamann who did his usual holding role. The problem being as soon as they stopped one attack the Reds gave the ball away again.
The only real chance in the final minutes for the Reds fell to Gerrard who stormed forward before being brought down cynically on the edge of the Boro box. Yet again no card though. Gerrard picked himself up and blasted the free kick at Emile Heskey who formed part of the Boro wall. Gerrard certainly let Heskey know his anger afterwards as the play switched to the other end. With just a couple of extra minutes the final whistle went and the Reds were well in the driving seat again for that coveted fourth place.
Overall this was a mixed game. One minute we were playing some good football in truth and the next we were being torn apart. There were things to take from this game, not least the three points but also some of the passing and movement. It was worrying how Boro went through our midfield with ease on a couple of occasion but that's something to work on. At minimum this was three deserved points though and it's down to two games now. Fourth place is very much on at the rate the others are playing.
MotM : Dietmar Hamann - does exactly what he says he will do. We all know what Hamann is about and in this one he did it every time. He has his limitations going forward but with Boro coming for more than a dull stalemate he was on his guard throughout and made some superb tackles.