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Tuesday, 26 December, 2000, 17:31 GMT
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Middlesbrough 1-0 Liverpool
Christian Karembeu helped Middlesbrough to succeed where Manchester United and Arsenal failed by beating Liverpool.
The Frenchman scored in the 41st minute after a mistake by visiting goalkeeper Sander Westerveld and then helped his side stage a rearguard action which blunted a very poor Liverpool side.
The hosts stay in the bottom three, but the revival under Terry Venables continues.
For Liverpool, their manager Gerard Houllier must be wondering, along with their passionate fans, why a team that had gone into the game with wins over the league's top two should so badly under-perform.
Perhaps the biggest worry was the form of Michael Owen, who looked very short of confidence and pace.
There were very few highlights to describe during a tediousl first half.
While goals were flying in most of the other Premiership games, neither of these teams looked particularly bothered about venturing into the opposition's half.
In the sixth minute, Noel Whelan found some space on the Middlesbrough right, but his first-time volley lacked the necessary power to trouble Westerveld.
At the other end, Liverpool's Croatian midfielder Igor Biscan produced a strong right-footed shot which took a big deflection off Colin Cooper and spun up for Mark Schwarzer to catch easily.
Shortly after, Jamie Carragher accelerated down the Liverpool left, his low cross finding Michael Owen who ballooned his shot over the crossbar.
The visitors occasionally raised the tempo, with one such occasion bringing an Emile Heskey shot from outside the box which got a deflection from Ugo Ehiogu to spun past the post.
To sum up the quality of the game, the goal came from a mistake.
A well-worked move from the left involving Whelan found Curtis Fleming just inside the Liverpool penalty area.
His undemanding shot was spilled by Westerveld and Karembeu had an easy tap-in from a yard.
Cooper was booked shortly after for a cynical pull on Owen on the halfway line, whilst Carragher received the same punishment when he pushed Karembeu outside the box.
At the start of the second half, Owen missed a glorious chance after strong work from Steven Gerrard down the Liverpool left.
The striker again got in a great position, down the left of the Middlesbrough penalty area, but his effort went harmlessly across the area.
That miss was Owen's last action of the afternoon, as he was replaced shortly after by Robbie Fowler, whilst Gary McAllister replaced Biscan.
Shortly after, Barmby was booked for a foul on Paul Okon.
Fowler gave a brief glimpse of his talent when he turned Ehiogu and hit a skidding right footed shot which Schwarzer gratefully grabbed.
Gianluca Festa, who had suffered from an upset stomach during the halftime break, nearly benefited from poor play by Vladimir Smicer, the Italian hitting a long range shot which went just wide.
With 11 minutes remaining, Markus Babbel was sacrificed for Danny Murphy.
Barmby, who had been more involved than most Liverpool players, missed the best chance of the afternoon when he failed to make clean contact from four yards after Hyypia's cross missed out Fowler and found the midfielder.
Almost immediately after, Fowler missed a good chance from 12 yards.
Withstanding severe pressure during the final minutes, Middlesbrough clung on for a victory they deserved as the visitors never managed to prise open a stubborn defence well marshalled by Festa.
Middlesbrough: Schwarzer, Fleming, Festa, Karembeu, Ince, Boksic, O'Neill, Okon, Ehiogu, Whelan, Cooper. Subs: Gordon, Deane, Job, Crossley, Hudson.
Liverpool: Westerveld, Henchoz, Babbel, Smicer, Heskey, Owen, Hyypia, Gerrard, Barmby, Carragher, Biscan. Subs: Fowler, Murphy, Hamann, Arphexad, McAllister.
Referee: S Lodge (Barnsley)
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