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Last Updated: Saturday, 20 November, 2004, 16:55 GMT
Middlesbrough 2-0 Liverpool

Chris Riggott
Steven Gerrard's long-awaited return to Premiership action was not enough to prevent Middlesbrough earning a deserved victory over Liverpool.

A goal in each half from Chris Riggott and Boudewijn Zenden overshadowed Gerrard's return as a second-half substitute after eight weeks out.

Riggott netted from close range on 27 minutes after Stewart Downing's cross.

And Zenden finished well after Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's pass on 61 minutes, with Liverpool claiming he was offside.

Boro took the chance to avenge their Carling Cup defeat to the Reds earlier in November with an assured performance, never allowing Liverpool to settle.

Yet a cagey opening produced little in the way of goalmouth action.

It took 17 minutes for Boro to fashion their first chance, with Ray Parlour surging into the box, but his cross was expertly headed away by Jamie Carragher.

That sparked a Liverpool break which culminated in a Steve Finnan shot which Schwarzer got down well to save.

At the other end, Mark Viduka produced a sublime backheel to Parlour, and the midfielder's low cross just missed Franck Queudrue.

Boro were beginning to establish some supremacy, and were inches away from taking the lead after 27 minutes, when Queudrue headed just over from Downing's free-kick.

Chris Kirkland also had to save well from close range from Hasselbaink and George Boateng shot over as the home team pressed.

And they grabbed the goal their play deserved on 38 minutes when Downing crossed perceptively for Riggott, who was unmarked as he tapped in from five yards.

That was with 35 minutes on the clock, and Liverpool thought they had squared the match two minutes later, although Luis Garcia was judged offside.

The goal prompted a good response from Liverpool, and Kewell will be disappointed to have sent the ball over from close range after Carragher's cross.

But Boro still threatened, and Viduka shot just wide after the ball fortuitously ricocheted to him inside the box.

Liverpool were almost level within three minutes of the restart, but Schwarzer produced a remarkable instinctive save to deflect Kewell's point-blank header over the bar.

Gerrard made his return to Premiership action in the 57th minute as a substitute for Dietmar Hamann.

And his first touch almost led to a goal, as a delicate free-kick into the box eventually fell to Garcia, whose volley whistled past the post.

Yet it was Boro who were celebrating a controversial second on 61 minutes, as Zenden finished smartly after Hasselbaink's through pass - although there was more than a hint of offside about the goal.

Liverpool kept grafting, and substitute striker Florent Sinama-Pongolle sent the ball just wide at the end of a promising move, while Kewell also missed from a tight angle after taking the ball wide of Schwarzer.

Boro remained in control, however, and Hasselbaink shot wide from 20 yards late on, while Luis Garcia shot wide from a great position for Liverpool in the closing moments.

Middlesbrough: Schwarzer, McMahon, Riggott, Southgate, Queudrue, Parlour, Boateng, Zenden (Nemeth 89), Downing, Viduka, Hasselbaink (Job 86).
Subs Not Used: Nash, Doriva, Cooper.

Booked: Zenden, Southgate, Boateng.

Goals: Riggott 36, Zenden 62.

Liverpool: Kirkland, Josemi (Sinama Pongolle 70), Carragher, Hyypia, Traore, Finnan, Hamann (Gerrard 56), Alonso (Biscan 83), Riise, Luis Garcia, Kewell.
Subs Not Used: Dudek, Mellor.

Booked: Hyypia, Josemi.

Att: 34,751.

Ref: S Bennett (Kent).

Interview: Middlesbrough manager Steve McClaren

Interview: Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez

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