Liverpool brush aside Middlesbrough to get back on track
A brace from Adam Lallana and a Divock Origi strike were enough at the Riverside
Liverpool fans spill onto the pitch after Adam Lallana scores his side’s third goal of the game during their Premier League clash with Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium. Photo: Richard Sellers/PA
The cameras attempted to pan towards Liverpool’s dropped goalkeeper on more than one occasion here but no one was really noticing. Jürgen Klopp’s side made sure that Loris Karius was not the story on a night when Adam Lallana starred in a convincing victory and they played the kind of scintillating football that has become their trademark this season.
Simon Mignolet replaced Karius after his recent errors but the saga that dominated the build-up to this game was soon forgotten. Liverpool started steadily after dropping points in their last two games but when they hit their stride Middlesbrough were simply no match.
Each goal was the result of sharp team interplay and Lallana’s fine campaign continues. He opened the scoring with a header, set up Divock Origi for the second and made the points secure with a brilliant third, as Liverpool went above Arsenal in the Premier League to second.
Karius watched from the bench as Liverpool controlled much of the first half, although Mignolet was not an entirely redundant spectator as Middlesbrough attempted to prise open a defence that had conceded six in two before this match.
“There was no reason to push Loris through this situation,” was Klopp’s reasoning about the decision to swap his goalkeepers, with Mignolet starting a Premier League match for the first time since mid September. The Belgian spooned a clearance high early on but was relatively assured during a half in which Liverpool had the edge.
After a tight opening 20 minutes when the only effort on target was a 25-yard strike from Middlesbrough’s left-back, Fabio, Klopp’s side began to take control. They had pressed and dominated possession without creating too much, until a fine team move gave them the lead.
In the 29th minute Georginio Wijnaldum played a fizzing ball out right to Nathaniel Clyne, who ran on to the pass with pace and made room to cross deep. Lallana timed his run well in the penalty area and rose brilliantly to nod Clyne’s accurate ball past Victor Valdés and in at the far post.
It was the kind of team goal that Liverpool have become so accustomed to producing this season, and one that they probably deserved. Middlesbrough attempted to respond immediately and they almost did so, Viktor Fischer forcing a smart stop from Mignolet at the near post, yet it was Liverpool who came closest to another before half-time.
A couple of shots from range were all Boro could muster, despite some neat interplay around the area. Adama Traoré buzzed with energy down the right, but for all the Spaniard’s trickery there was too often a lack of end product.
It was Sadio Mané who almost doubled Liverpool’s lead. Two minutes before the interval he was played in following a swift turn in midfield by Origi, and Mané outpaced Ben Gibson before releasing a left-footed effort from inside the area that hit the foot of Valdés’ left-hand post, with Origi striking the rebound into the side-netting. Middlesbrough were fortunate not to be out of the game, but Karanka’s side still had an uphill task ahead of them.
Indeed, they were on the back foot immediately after the game had restarted. A simple ball forward from Liverpool’s defence somehow bamboozled Middlesbrough and ran all the way through to Mané, who sprinted into the area and forced an excellent save from Valdés.
From the ensuing pressure Liverpool had further opportunities. Mané could not quite get the ball out from under his feet after Firmino had cushioned a header across goal, while he turned provider for the Brazilian moments later but Firminho’s header drifted tamely wide.
By this point Liverpool were well on top and Mané, in particular, was in the thick of it. In the 55th minute the away supporters appealed for handball against Calum Chambers after Mané’s shot from Firmino’s low cross, but although the ball appeared to strike an arm it was tucked into Chambers’ body.
Soon, though, those supporters were celebrating a second and once again it was a fine team move with Lallana at its heart. The midfield interplay was simply too good for Middlesbrough and by the time Wijnaldum slipped the ball through to Lallana, the red and white Boro shirts were spinning. Lallana raced to the by-line and pulled it across for Origi who finished coolly from close range.
This time Origi was the provider and Lallana the scorer, his sixth goal of the season from another slick move in the 68th minute that had similarities to Liverpool’s second. Origi raced on to a loose ball and as Firmino made the decoy run to the near post, Origi pulled it back to the far and Lallana finished emphatically.
Lallana received a rapturous reception when he was brought off with eight minutes remaining. His job was done.