Schwarzer keeps Liverpool firing blanks
Over the past couple of seasons, Middlesbrough have tended to thrive at home against the Premiership's top sides only to come up short against the strugglers. Exactly which category Liverpool fell into ahead of this one was debatable. Big name, shocking away form. How else could you describe a return of just one point away from Anfield, not to mention one measly goal? And that was a penalty.
So it came to pass that Liverpool fired yet another blank, but it certainly wasn't through lack of trying. Their performance won them a second point on the road, yet they really should have taken all three, so poor were the hosts. That doesn't change the fact that Liverpool are now 16 points behind Manchester United - and it's still only November.
'When you play well and create a lot of chances, crosses, corners and everything, you must not be happy when you can't win,' said Rafael Benitez. 'You try to find positive things. It's a clean sheet for us, away. It's not a defeat and I felt we deserved to win. We started the game playing counter-attack and after we were playing attacking, attacking, attacking. We didn't have any big problems in the second half.
'When you are not winning away and you are playing well, then you need to analyse why you don't score goals. We know we need to improve, but if we play like today in 100 games we will win 99 of them. The only thing you can do is try and keep going. If you play well and create chances, you know there will be a time when you start winning.'
With Steven Gerrard restored to central midfield and Xabi Alonso putting in a man-of-the-match performance alongside him, Liverpool created enough chances, particularly during the second period, to have won at a canter. Their best opportunity came with seven minutes remaining, substitute Peter Crouch heading a left-wing cross from Mark Gonzalez past Mark Schwarzer only for Jonathan Woodgate to clear off the line.
Besides a busy opening 15 minutes during which they promised much but created little, Middlesbrough put in a below-par display that had one wag near the press box declaring he would 'change half the bloody team' at the break. By full time that had changed to 'the whole bloody team'. Their only genuine chance came in the 53rd minute, when Jason Euell's header from a James Morrison cross was parried by Jose Reina, Yakubu Aiyegbeni kicking air instead of ball with an open goal at his mercy.
'I'm not going to sit here and say we played well, but I've got to admire the resilience and character that we showed,' said Gareth Southgate. 'We were up against a top-class side and I don't care what people say about the way they're playing, the games they've lost have been Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United. I saw the game they lost at Bolton and they had about 20 shots to Bolton's three. They're a top-quality team and we bothered them in the first half at times. In the second half we didn't keep the ball well enough and didn't pose enough of a threat going forward. But on the day I've got to be happy with a point.'
Man of the match: Xabi Alonso