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Liverpool 3, Middlesbrough 0: First Thoughts

Liverpool will finish 2016-17 in a Champions League spot.

Liverpool v Middlesbrough - Premier League Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Liverpool 3 Wijnaldum 45’, Coutinho 50’, Lallana 56’

Middlesbrough 0

Pre-Match Thought Part I: (vomits).

Pre-Match Thought Part Deux: Firmino and Sturridge both start. No excuses.

Pre-Match Thought Part III: Amazing how Stewart Downing starting still causes anxiety when he is no longer a Liverpool player.

  • Kickoff: Liverpool start things off in their new deeper red outfits and Firmino has a shot from distance in the opening seconds. As expected, Boro set up shop in the backest back room at the back of the shop. Bright start for the hosts.
  • The ball finds its way to an open Nathaniel Clyne in the box, but in his excitement he forgets that the shot needs to be towards goal.
  • Boro look fairly toothless, though the question was always going to be whether Liverpool can unlock things up front. A cross from the left is flicked on to Wijnaldum but the midfielder’s effort is blocked.
  • Free kick for Boro can’t get past the wall. Sturridge seems to have taken a shot to his head. Minutes later a good effort from Can is just off target.
  • Let off for Liverpool as Bamford is given a clear route with Lovren wrapped around him. The Boro player goes down easily, but no call from the referee and play goes on.
  • With 25 minutes gone, the pattern is apparent. Liverpool will need to find a way past a tightly packed group, and crosses from Milner and Clyne or shots from distance don’t seem to be very effective thus far.
  • Good play from Lallana ends with a Sturridge attempt that is juuust beyond the post.
  • Boro are playing with more confidence up front, and conversely Liverpool seem on edge.
  • GOAL! Wijnaldum finds himself on the end of a move that he started on the right. The midfielder fires powerfully to give Liverpool a precious advantage just before half-time.
  • Halftime: That goal could be so, so significant. Will Boro throw in the towel and can Liverpool take advantage, or will there be a twist in the tale? Liverpool started with verve but appeared to run out of ideas. Wijnaldum’s effort may be exactly what they needed. If nothing else, Brad Guzan needs to be reminded that he is Brad Guzan.
  • Boro start the second half looking threatening because of course. Emre Can has taken an arm to the head and needs treatment but appears to be able to continue.
  • GOAL! Free kick for Liverpool in a promising position. Coutinho will take it and he doubles the advantage. No jokes about 2-0 leads please.
  • Floodgates aren’t quite open but are creaking a bit.
  • GOAL! Okay maybe the floodgates are open now. From a Boro corner, Liverpool steam upfield in numbers. Lallana finds himself with the ball and only Guzan ahead of him. It’s three.
  • Beautiful play from Coutinho, Firmino, and Wijnaldum looks like it has set up a fourth, but it, um, hasn’t.
  • Not quite a party atmosphere just yet, but Liverpool are playing with a verve that was conspicuously absent in the first half. There’s probably another goal in this one.
  • Wijnaldum is an absolute tornado in the center of the pitch, sweeping up loose ends while causing havoc in the opposition’s third.
  • On 72 minutes, Rudy Gestede makes way for Álvaro Negredo and Dani Ayala comes on for Fabio.
  • Lucas comes on for Firmino, who leaves to warm applause. Don’t call it a testimonial. Minutes later, Sturridge is replaced by Divock Origi. Lots of emotions as Sturridge high gives the bench. It will be an interesting summer for him.
  • The Anfield crowd are urging Lucas to shoot at every opportunity. It’s beautiful. Meanwhile, Alberto Moreno comes on for James Milner.
  • Final whistle: They’ve done it! There were some nervy moments in the first half, but they’ve done it. A lot of work remains to be done, particularly in the transfer market - no thoughts about that at this moment, however. Fourth place or better was the objective at the start of the season, and given the injuries and depth issues they’ve had, it’s difficult to say this finish isn’t an achievement.

We'll be back shortly to take an in-depth look at everything that happened in today's game with the full recap. Until then, let us know your take on the ups and downs of the match in the comments, and if you haven't already, join the community on the Liverpool Offside, where we'll have full coverage and lively in-game discussion for every match this season.

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