Middlesbrough 2-0 Liverpool
Saturday 28th February 2009
Arca (Walker 88)
Sanli (Adam Johnson 79)
Aliadiere (King 68)
Carragher (Benayoun 71)
Gerard (Lucas 76)
El Zhar (Ngog 68)
Not only is this match remarkable because of the scoreline, but for a number of other reasons. For one, well over eight hours of football had been played since Middlesbrough had last scored a goal. Secondly, that goal drought was then ended by a surprising lack of composure from the world’s coolest man, Xabi Alonso.
The 2008/09 season was an impressive one for Liverpool, with the Merseyside club finishing just four points behind the eventual champions, and their bitter rivals, Manchester United. Had the Reds not had such an unwanted reputation for drawing matches, they could well have won their first ever league title since the conception of the Premier League – but it was not to be. This result was one of just two defeats they suffered during the entire campaign, which makes it only more suited to be the 15th instalment of TFG’s Premier League upsets.
It took 32 minutes for the aforementioned Alonso error to occur, with the Spaniard caught in two minds when defending a corner. Instead of clearing a low, in-swinging Stewart Downing corner with his less-favoured left foot, the midfielder hesitated and could only manage to then knee the ball into the bottom corner of his own net. It was not the finest moment of his glittering career, but it gave Middlesbrough the confidence they needed to secure the victory.
Gareth Southgate’s men needed just 18 minutes of the second half to grab their second goal, and did it in some style. Some neat play down the right-wing culminated in Jeremy Aliadiere darting into the Liverpool penalty area, before laying the ball back to the awaiting Tuncay Sanli, who finished neatly. It was a perfectly constructed move, that came somewhat against the run of play – but it was testament to the clinical nature Boro displayed in the game. Had they displayed such tendencies on a more regular basis however, then perhaps they wouldn’t have finished joint bottom of the league that season. It was the highlight of a very miserable season from a Middlesbrough perspective, but just one of many costly matches Liverpool failed to win on yet another flawed path to their dream – a Premier League title.