GERRARD BACK IN ANFIELD GROOVE; SMOOTH FINISH: Jamie Carragher (Far Left) Celebrates His Goal and Steven Gerrard (Left) Comes Up with Liverpools Winner in Injury Time

Article excerpt

Byline: Joe Bernstein

2 LIVERPOOL 1 MIDDLESBRO Carragher (86), Gerrard (90)

STEVEN GERRARD'S miserable week ended on an incredible high when he struck Liverpool's winner with virtually the last kick of the game in front of the Kop.

Gerrard, such a forlorn figure cast out on the left for England in midweek, is the turn-to man at his natural home whenever Liverpool are in trouble.

So, it was no surprise that with Boro about to leave Anfield with a welldeserved point, it should be the captain who burst forward in the 94th minute and rifled home a shot into the top corner from 18 yards that stand-in goalkeeper Ross Turnbull barely saw.

Gareth Southgate and Boro will not believe they lost the game, having led until the 86th minute until that unlikeliest of goalscorers, Jamie Carragher, levelled via a heavy deflection off Emanuel Pogatetz. Liverpool scarcely deserved to win but on such moments are championship challenges decided, even at this early stage of the season.

For most of the game, Liverpool looked ordinary and ?20million new boy Robbie Keane seemed more interested in arguing with referee Mike Riley than anything else on his home debut. Yet at five o'clock yesterday, the Premier League table showed Liverpool as the only team so far with maximum points from their first two games. It did not really matter how they got there.

Liverpool, with lifelong fan Brian Barwick watching from the directors' box following his troubled week at the FA, did not take long to get into gear.

With Franco Baldini, England manager Fabio Capello's right-hand man looking on, Boro were forced to draft in 23-year-old rookie Turnbull after No1 Brad Jones injured his fingers in the warm-up. But the standin made a brilliant save in the opening minute to deny Dirk Kuyt and did not have much to do after that until the very end. With Gerrard quiet and pacing himself because of a troublesome groin, Fernando Torres took it upon himself to try to break the early deadlock. He set up Kuyt, then Keane, only for both to miss. The Spaniard then decided to have a go himself but headed wide from Xabi Alonso's cross.

Once Boro realised they were not going to buckle early on, though, the atmosphere changed. The Teessiders also enjoyed an opening-day win against Spurs and have players such as Stewart Downing and Tuncay Sanli who do not look out of place at Anfield.

Added to that, the Kop is a twitchy place these days with their quest for a league title after 18 years having an almost obsessive nature. …