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Liverpool 2, Middlesborough 0

It wasn't pretty, it wasn't dominate, but it definitely put me in a better mood.

Rafa did the obvious move early in the second half of taking Sissoko out for Kuyt and putting Gerrard back into his natural position, which put Gerrard more at ease and stabilized the middle of the field for us. Gerrard's goal, though not spectacular by any means, was nice, and the penalty could have gone either way.

The best players for us the entire match were easily Mascherano, who was very unlucky not to score on a header, and the man who set that up, Jermaine Pennant. Not that I want him to play for England, but McClaren has to truly be a complete idiot if he thinks Stewart Downing (yes, he was playing) deserves to be on the national team and Pennant does not. Pennant creates a lot of offense for us with his speed, control, and passing, and isn't half bad on defense either. Masch continued his climb to world class status with his usual destroying defensive efforts, but added the desire and ability to score as well.

In the second half, once the Kuyt for Sissoko switch was made, Gerrard began to play a lot better. With Mascherano there as a safety, Stevie-G had free roam of the field and began to look a lot more comfortable. Zenden seemed to benefit as well, as his play also got considerably better. His give-and-go which lead to our Captain's goal was quite nice. I would really like us to go with a 4-1-3-2 in important games, it may leave Sissoko and Alonso the odd men out, but Gerrard and Masch are just the better of the two in the middle, and plus, they'll get their minutes.

Crouch was crap for the most part again, culminating in a second half whiff on a JP pass at the top of the box. His Arsenal match is slowly fading into memory. And Riise, dear God, man! Stop shooting the long range shots! He had a couple of more in the second half that were no where near threatening.

As for Agger, Carra, and Reina, they got the much deserved clean sheet. It's hard to praise guys who always make the little plays that get little recognition. They do their job, which is all can be asked of them. It was also nice to see Arbeloa tone down the Spanish panache and play with some sense.

Gerrard will probably get Man-of-the-Match here, but if it were up to me, Masch would get his second consecutive honor. Even after him, Pennant was probably more deserving.

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