Liverpool lose more ground at Boro

Liverpool missed the chance to cut Manchester United's lead at the top of the Premier League when it lost at Middlesbrough 2-0 on Saturday.

updated: March 01, 2009 09:31 IST
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Liverpool missed the chance to cut Manchester United's lead at the top of the Premier League when it lost at Middlesbrough 2-0 on Saturday.

Boro had not won a league match since November and had not even scored in five games, but Tuncay Sanli added to Xabi Alonso's first-half own-goal to push Liverpool down to third place and seriously dent its chances of a first league title since 1990.

The result left Liverpool with 55 points, still seven points behind the defending champions, who are not in Premier League action this weekend because they face Tottenham in Sunday's League Cup final.

Chelsea overtook Liverpool on goal difference after a 2-1 win over Wigan, while Arsenal drew 0-0 with visiting Fulham for a fourth straight scoreless draw.

With Fernando Torres injured after limping out of Wednesday's 1-0 Champions League win at Real Madrid, Liverpool rarely threatened Middlesbrough's defense and was disjointed throughout.

"In the first 30 minutes we had five chances and we didn't take them," Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez said. "It's clearly been a problem this season and today was the same."

Middlesbrough had not scored in 527 minutes of Premier League football until Alonso put the home side ahead with a 32nd-minute own-goal. Stewart Downing hit a corner from the right that eluded a bunch of players before hitting the Spain midfielder and bouncing past goalkeeper Pepe Reina.

Tuncay made it 2-0 in the 63rd with a shot into the bottom corner from Jeremie Aliadiere's cross and it could have been 3-0 but Reina got down low to save Gary O'Neil's volley.

"We knew we'd have to be at our best and we were a threat going forward," Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate said. "It was an important win for us. We're starting to score again and you can see the confidence coming back into the side."

Benitez took off Jamie Carragher and the injured Steven Gerrard but used his three substitutes without effect against a side whose 20 goals from 27 league matches make it the lowest scorers in the Premier League.

Chelsea had looked set to stay in third place after Wigan's Olivier Kapo headed in Maynor Figueroa's cross to equalize with eight minutes left. But Frank Lampard headed in Michael Ballack's last-minute cross to add to John Terry's 25th-minute volley.

The Blues have four points more than fourth-place Aston Villa and 10 more than Arsenal.

Villa hosts Stoke in one of four games Sunday, when Newcastle is at Bolton, Blackburn is at Hull, and Manchester City is at West Ham.

Robin van Persie came closest to scoring for Arsenal in the 58th at Emirates Stadium when he headed Bacary Sagna's right-wing cross onto the far post. Arsenal has now failed to score in four straight league games for the first time in 15 years and is just two points ahead of Everton.

Everton scored a goal in each half to beat West Bromwich Albion 2-0 and keep up its efforts to qualify for European competition.

Australia midfielder Tim Cahill put Everton ahead in the 36th minute and substitute Louis Saha rounded off the scoring 20 minutes from the end with his first goal since Nov. 8.

The win moved sixth-place Everton to 44 points from 27 matches and kept West Brom at the bottom of the standings with 22. Middlesbrough climbed out of the relegation zone, which now includes Blackburn and Stoke with the Baggies.

Cahill had already had a goal ruled out because of a handball when he headed in a cross from about eight meters (yards), with goalkeeper Scott Carson missing the ball with his attempted punch.

Saha, who had been on the field for nine minutes, then turned on the edge of the area and put a low shot into the bottom corner.

Wolverhampton Wanderers stayed at the top of the second-tier League Championship despite its 1-0 home loss to Plymouth, with second-place Birmingham not in action. Third-place Reading also lost 1-0 at home, to Nottingham Forest.