Liverpool 2 Middlesbrough 0
By Patrick Goss. Last Updated: January 1, 1970 1:00am
Liverpool took a step closer to securing fourth spot in The Premiership with a straightforward 2-0 victory over Middlesbrough at Anfield on Sunday afternoon.
The watching Sven Goran Eriksson would have been delighted to have seen English stars Michael Owen, Danny Murphy and Emile Heskey play crucial roles in getting the goals - the former earning a penalty and laying on the second for his strike partner.
Owen had rocketed a low shot against a post in a first half that saw both sides create chances, but a seven-minute period at the start of the second half wrapped up victory for The Reds, and kept them ahead of Aston Villa and Newcastle United as the race for a UEFA Champions League place enters its final stages.
Mark Schwarzer had produced two solid saves to deny the England number ten in the opening minutes after the break, but was given no chance from a Danny Murphy penalty after Owen was clumsily felled in the box by Chris Riggott.
Four minutes later and the game was all but wrapped up when Owen cleverly touched the ball round a defender, presumably for himself, but watched as second half substitute Heskey gleefully swept home to double his side's advantage.
A thrilling first half had seen chances for both sides, with Owen hitting a post but Joseph Desire Job wastefully firing Boro's best chance too close to a grateful Jerzy Dudek.
Gaizka Mendieta had indicated Boro's desire to keep the game open, and his early free kick had Dudek scrambling.
Job will be disappointed with his 12th-minute effort, the ball falling kindly for the striker in a central area on the edge of the box, but his shot allowing Dudek to make a smart stop.
Owen had a 13th-minute effort crucially blocked by the alert Ugo Ehiogu, but just 60 seconds later was even more unfortunate when he bundled through a challenge but saw his low shot across Schwarzer smashing an upright and rebounding to safety.
John Arne Riise fired narrowly wide, whilst Murphy saw a free kick evade the wall but not the grasp of Schwarzer.
The otherwise ineffective Harry Kewell did put the ball in the net from a free kick, only to be adjudged offside and at the other end Riggott flicked on a curling cross, but could not shift the ball far enough to either side of Dudek to cause a problem.
After suffering through the opening exchanges of the second half and finding themselves two goals behind, Middlesbrough gainfully tried to get a foothold in the match - but aside from a Slizard Nemeth shot that had Dudek leaping acrobatically across his goal to save could produce little in the May sunshine.
Boro have had better days, but their fans are confident for the future, whilst Liverpool's season is taking a turn for the better - and England fans will be delighted to see Owen beginning to get back on his game ahead of the European Championship.