Liverpool regained third place in the Premiership as a brace from Steven Gerrard helped them beat Middlesbrough.
Gerrard powers a shot to put his side ahead at Anfield
Gerrard brought some quality to the game following an instantly forgettable first half when he lashed in a low 25-yard strike after 58 minutes.
Midfielder Gerrard coolly grabbed his second from the spot after Boro defender Andrew Davies was harshly penalised for a foul on Peter Crouch.
Boro struggled to break down the Reds as the home side eased to victory.
A minute's silence preceded the action as a mark of respect following the 18th anniversary of Hilllsborough.
Both sides struggled to get into their stride in the early stages and the first worthwhile attack took almost 20 minutes to materialise.
Momo Sissoko's mistimed header fell for Crouch at the far post but his shot was blocked by diving defenders Jonathan Woodgate and Davies.
The determination of the Boro duo was epitomised by their team-mates as the visitors nullified the Reds with their tough-tackling and high work-rate.
Liverpool needed a creative spark and right-winger Pennant was their main avenue of attack.
Sissoko (left) tussles with Boro midfielder Cattermole
He pulled a ball back for Sissoko to sidefoot wide of the near post but there was little else to worry Boro keeper Mark Schwarzer.
Boro were gifted a chance when a Jamie Carragher mistake saw him dispossessed by Fabio Rochemback.
The Brazilian surged towards goal from midfield but failed to capitalise as he put his 20-yard shot wide.
Liverpool increased their tempo after the break and a Javier Mascherano header hit the crossbar.
Midfielder Sissoko was replaced by striker Dirk Kuyt and he was quickly in the thick of play, with a near-post effort blocked by Woodgate.
Kuyt got back up to lay the ball into the path of Boudewijn Zenden, who sidefooted over from six yards against his former club.
The breakthrough came for Liverpool when Gerrard picked the ball up and unleashed a strike into the bottom corner.
Gerrard added to the home side's lead with a penalty after Davies was punished for a challenge on Crouch as the two jumped for a cross.
Boro were unhappy with the spot-kick and, despite posing more of a threat with the introduction of striker Mark Viduka, were comfortably held at bay by the Reds.
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez:
"We needed to be patient keep moving ball around as they played deep and were very organised.
"We knew we needed to win to help make sure of a top four place and if we can get into third it will be perfect.
"In the middle, Steven Gerrard is always a player who is very dangerous."
Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate:
"Once you concede the first at Anfield it is tough.
"We came here to keep it tight and open it up towards the end but got caught napping to a wonderful strike when we switched off for a moment.
"The penalty puts the game out of reach. It was soft but it's been given and there is nothing we can do."
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Agger, Riise, Pennant, Mascherano, Sissoko (Kuyt 51), Zenden, Gerrard (Gonzalez 87), Crouch.
Subs Not Used: Dudek, Hyypia, Fowler.
Goals: Gerrard 58, 65 pen.
Middlesbrough: Schwarzer, Davies, Woodgate, Pogatetz, Taylor, Boateng, Morrison (Viduka 66), Cattermole (Johnson 81), Rochemback, Downing, Yakubu.
Subs Not Used: Jones, Riggott, Lee.
Ref: G Poll (Hertfordshire).