Adam Lallana's man-of-the-match performance leads Liverpool to victory
Adam Lallana dazzled as Liverpool got back on track following two disappointing results with a convincing 3-0 victory over Middlesbrough at the Riverside. The England man scored his fifth and sixth goals of the season and also weighed in with assist number six as the Merseysiders leapfrogged Arsenal to go second in the table.
First and foremost, the result. Liverpool needed a win and they got it. The clean sheet was important too, and the way they shut the game down by keeping the ball once they had the lead was encouraging. The entire team performed well and this was just what the doctor ordered.
Some of the finishing left a lot to be desired as realistically this should have been at least five or six, but when you do your job defensively you can afford a miss or two at the other end.
Manager rating out of 10
9 -- Jurgen Klopp could have been stubborn and persisted with Loris Karius just to spite the young goalkeeper's critics, but common sense prevailed and Klopp did the right thing by recalling Simon Mignolet. That decision paid off, as did the tactical adjustment he made at half-time that saw his side play much more direct at times. That approach worked a treat as the pace of Sadio Mane and Divock Origi wreaked havoc and allowed the Reds to carve out numerous chances.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Simon Mignolet, 8 -- There was tremendous pressure on the Belgian given the situation that led to his recall, but he did everything he had to do with a calm assurance. He made three saves in the first half (one was excellent) and showed good handling throughout, particularly when plucking crosses out of the air.
DF Nathaniel Clyne, 8 -- A fine performance from Liverpool's Mr. Consistent. Created the first goal with a brilliant cross on the run and was heavily involved in Liverpool's attacking play throughout. Seemed to really enjoy himself.
DF Dejan Lovren, 7 -- Defended well when required and used the ball efficiently. Liverpool mixed it up and were more direct in the second half and Lovren's long passing played a part in making that work.
DF Ragnar Klavan, 7 -- Comfortable in possession, strong in the air and did a fine job covering behind James Milner on the odd occasion Adama Traore got free of the veteran full-back. A very dependable backup.
DF James Milner, 8 -- Another top-quality display from the vice-captain, who was tireless in his running up and down the left flank and was still popping up in the opposing penalty area even in stoppage time. Had one or two difficult moments against the speedster Traore but by and large kept him quiet.
MF Jordan Henderson, 7 -- Saw even more of the ball than usual as Liverpool dominated possession, and he kept things ticking over nicely. The Reds' dominance, particularly in the second half, ensured this was a relatively easy game for the skipper as he was rarely forced into defensive duties and at times this looked like an exhibition game for him.
MF Georginio Wijnaldum, 7 -- Buzzed around the field and was involved plenty, but unlike his midfield partner Lallana, he didn't really make too many telling contributions. His clever one-touch passing and ability to move the ball quickly helped Liverpool find more attacking fluidity in the second half and he's proving to be a nice acquisition.
MF Adam Lallana, 9 -- Scored two goals and created another, but that doesn't tell the whole story. He was outstanding, popping up all over the pitch and rarely wasting a pass. He even got back to make a key block to deny Adam Forshaw when the game was finely poised at 1-0, and all in all this was a brilliant performance from a man who has probably been Liverpool's best player this season.
FW Sadio Mane, 7 -- Should probably have scored a hat trick but was let down by some subpar finishing. One excellent first-half effort that came back off the post was unlucky, but he was wasteful with some other chances after the break. Still, he was a constant menace and stretched the Middlesbrough defence with his pace and he was heavily involved in all three goals.
FW Divock Origi, 8 -- The young Belgian has now scored in five straight games since replacing Philippe Coutinho and this was his best display of the season. His all-around game was impressive, he linked well with teammates and even claimed an assist when he picked out Lallana for Liverpool's third.
FW Roberto Firmino, 6 -- The quietest of Liverpool's attacking players once again. His work rate can't be faulted but it's just not happening for the Brazilian at the moment and he'll probably be happier than most when Coutinho returns to the side. Mind you, unless his form improves he might be the one who makes way.
MF Lucas Leiva, NR -- Brought on in the closing stages to give Lallana a rest and to help see the game out.
MF Ovie Ejaria, NR -- Klopp gave the youngster another brief taste of Premier League action when he sent him on for Wijnaldum with three minutes remaining.
MF Trent Alexander-Arnold, NR -- Handed his Premier League debut as a stoppage-time replacement for Origi.
Dave Usher is one of ESPN's Liverpool bloggers and the founder of LFC fanzine and website The Liverpool Way. Follow him on Twitter: @theliverpoolway.