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Last Updated: Saturday, 30 April, 2005, 15:54 GMT 16:54 UK
Liverpool 1-1 Middlesbrough
Reds skipper Steven Gerrard (left) rises above Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink to win a header at Anfield
A spectacular Steven Gerrard strike failed to inspire Liverpool to a much-needed win over Middlesbrough in their challenge for a top four finish.

Szilard Nemeth gave Boro the lead when he shrugged off Mauricio Pellegrino and drove in a shot before Gerrard levelled with a 35-yard thunderbolt.

Luis Garcia and Fernando Morientes headed wide as the Reds took control against a Boro side happy to sit back.

Liverpool failed to get a winner and will be relieved rivals Everton lost.

The Anfield crowd started the game in good voice as they looked ahead to the Champions League semi-final second leg against Chelsea on Tuesday.

But they were quickly silenced when Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink chested a long Ugo Ehiogu ball into the path of Nemeth, who powered through the heart of the Reds defence and shot low past keeper Jerzy Dudek's right.

Liverpool struggled to find the cutting edge to unlock a tight Boro defence with John Arne Riise having their best chances.

The Norwegian headed just over at the near post before seeing one of his trademark left-foot pildrivers parried by keeper Brad Jones and another going narrowly wide.

Szilard Nemeth gave Middlesbrough an early lead against Liverpool at Anfield
Nemeth shocked the Liverpool crowd with his opener for Boro

Boro were searching for their first win at Anfield since March 1976 and were being helped by a shaky-looking Reds backline with Pellegrino looking particularly uncertain.

Doriva went close for the visitors when his sweetly-struck goalbound shot was deflected just high to the Reds relief.

Pellegrino was taken off at half-time and replaced by midfielder Garcia as Liverpool moved Riise into central defence to partner Jamie Carragher.

Garcia quickly made an impact when his well-timed header forced Jones into a smart save.

And the Reds pulled level with a truly memorable Gerrard goal.

The Liverpool captain gathered a Riise ball and produced an awesome strike which gave Jones no chance as it arrowed into the top left corner of the goal at the Kop end.

Garcia and Morientes each headed just wide in quick succession as Liverpool pushed on while two Kewell strikes were well saved by Jones.

But Boro central defender Gareth Southgate, making his 400th Premiership appearance, stood firm and played a major part in keeping Liverpool at bay.

The point was hard-earned for the visitors, but not really what Liverpool were looking for, the draw meaning they still remain three behind Everton in the race for the final Champions League place.


Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez:
"I am very unhappy and very frustrated as the result is not good.

"We only played to our potential for 20 minutes in the second half. The rest of the game was stop-start with bookings, free-kicks and delays.

"That is why I am unhappy. I honestly don't know why we cannot play well after a European game. There will have to be lots of changes for next season."

Middlesbrough boss Steve McClaren:
"For the first half our performance was outstanding, probably the best ever at Anfield for me. We defended well, scored a good goal and deserved to be ahead at the break.

"We expected an onslaught and that is what we got, but it took a wonder goal to stop us and once we got a grip after that we were in control. We had five across the middle and could have caught them on the break again.

"We are now in pole position for Europe. Everybody in our dressing room really wants it and they are showing a great attitude and determination. It was a fantastic display by them all."


Liverpool: Dudek, Finnan, Carragher, Pellegrino (Luis Garcia 45), Warnock (Hamann 84), Nunez (Cisse 73), Alonso, Gerrard, Riise, Morientes, Kewell.
Subs Not Used: Hyypia, Carson.

Booked: Nunez, Luis Garcia.

Goals: Gerrard 52.

Middlesbrough: Jones, Davies, Ehiogu, Southgate, Queudrue, Boateng, Nemeth (Downing 62), Doriva, Parlour (Parnaby 78), Zenden, Hasselbaink.
Subs Not Used: Knight, Reiziger, Morrison.

Booked: Doriva, Parlour, Zenden.

Goals: Nemeth 4.

Att: 43,250.

Ref: P Dowd (Staffordshire).




WATCH AND LISTEN
Interview: Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez


Interview: Middlesbrough boss Steve McClaren




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