If there was a team who had more at stake for losing, that was Liverpool. Sure, they still had a coach, unlike the ousted Karanka in the opposing side, and would not only certainly stay in Premier League, but also attend a European competition the following season. The question was which one. And it was all a matter of position.
Early on, the differences between the home team and the visiting side, newly descended Middlesbrough were obvious. The latter did its best to defend and prevent Firmino or Coutinho- and including defenders Milner and Lallana- from doing much, but Brad Guzan wound up being the ultimate defence- that, of course, if the shots didn’t go past the post or above it.
There was a clear difference, but if there was something Liverpool was lacking, it was efficiency. With time going on and Middlesbrough having some shots and free kicks- all ousted by Mignolet, even if he wasn’t as demanded overall compared to Guzan- the possibility of keeping the tie through the rest of the match began to loom ominously, with the threat of Europa League with it.
And after two years between that competition and no European football, Liverpool were eager to make a comeback into the top stage. The players, coach and fans aimed for it, but first, they had to win.
Arsenal was doing there part, and the current result was only benefitting them. The action was taking place in Middlesbrough’s area, but it led to no avail.
It seemed like the constant frustration of the season.
Until Wijnaldum appeared, seizing a Firmino assist to sentence the first goal. Following 45 minutes of dominance, the result began to reflect what had been happening on the pitch, albeit later than expected. The team went to the dressing rooms, with more certainty in their heads than earlier.
Confidence Boost for Liverpool
Liverpool wanted more, and showed that on the field. Only ten minutes past before Coutinho scored, and five minutes from there, a Lallana finish skipped beyond Guzan. If anything, the second half was showing on the scoreboard what the first half had failed to do.
From there, it was all about passes, and while Middlesbrough did attempt some counter-attacks, Mignolet was rarely called into action. Liverpool’s tactics had changed and were no longer finding Coutinho to rely on the Brazilian to work his magic.
If there is anything Liverpool should work on, it’s definitely efficiency. Now that they have clinched their spot in the Champions League, they must ensure that they remain efficient to fight of Europe’s greatest teams.