Boro crumble under Liverpool pressure in Premier League swan song
A spirited Middlesbrough side eventually crumbled in the face of relentless waves of unerring pressure from Liverpool, who ran out 3-0 winners and confirmed the return of Champions League football to Anfield next season. Boro racked up their 20th defeat of a deflating and depressing season and will be grateful they can now close this chapter of their history and look to move on to mounting another promotion push from the Championship.
Patrick Bamford looked bright and lively with great mobility and work rate. He was brought down by Dejan Lovren inside the area, but referee Martin Atkinson waved play on when he surely should have awarded a foul and delivered a potentially game-changing red card. Bamford will surely lead Boro's line next term alongside the towering Rudy Gestede, whose aerial presence was something Liverpool had to be constantly mindful of. Adam Forshaw was very advanced and should have scored twice but for poor finishing.
After Georginio Wijnaldum powered home Liverpool's first, Boro's defensive solidity looked to dissolve completely as the Reds ran rampant early in the second half. Brad Guzan was hopelessly caught out by Philippe Coutinho's curling free kick before Adam Lallana raced clean through beyond a hapless back line to slot the third home comfortably and release the pressure valve in the Anfield crowd. Boro overall lacked any real dominating phases of play and were fairly outclassed -- thoughts turn to a big summer now behind the scenes to hopefully rejuvenate the club.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Steve Agnew selected a balanced side that looked to next season with starting spots for Bamford and Gestede. He fairly gave Alvaro Negredo 20 minutes as a swan song after a battling season in which he tried hard, but had little to work with as Boro fell meekly into trouble.
Player ratings (1-10, with 10 the best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Brad Guzan, 4 -- Communication with his defence was left wanting as Liverpool exposed gaps in Boro's deep-lying back four. Very poor positioning left him unable to stop Coutinho's free kick.
DF Fabio, 6 -- Played his part in keeping Liverpool out for the majority of the first half before being ripped apart by some irresistible forward play.
DF Calum Chambers, 6 -- A fitting final game for the club from Chambers, who was impressive in the air and in the tackle.
DF Ben Gibson, 6 -- A fair showing from Boro's brightest young talent and potentially his final game with a summer of transfer interest likely to be in the offing.
DF George Friend, 6 -- Worked hard to get the side forward and looked to attack with intent when the opportunity arose.
MF Grant Leadbitter, 6 -- Covered a lot of ground for the cause and was always economical with the ball.
MF Adam Clayton, 6 -- A typically fiery showing from Clayton, whose commitment can never come under question.
MF Adam Forshaw, 6 -- A welcome return to form as he had a good game in an advanced role behind the striker and was unlucky not to register on the scoresheet against his boyhood club.
MF Stewart Downing, 6 -- Delivered some quality crosses onto the head of Gestede, who was unable to capitalise.
MF Patrick Bamford, 7 -- A bundle of energy across the front third of the pitch and was desperately unfortunate that the referee didn't side with him in his penalty debate with Lovren.
FW Rudy Gestede, 5 -- Had Simon Mignolet scampering across his line after a trademark glancing header, but did little else in the game.
DF Daniel Ayala, 5 -- Had little to do defensively as Liverpool comfortably allowed the game to peter out.
FW Alvaro Negredo, 5 -- Barely had a kick in the latter stages as his thoughts moved on to where he will be playing his football next season.
Catherine Wilson ESPN FC's Middlesbrough blogger. You can follow her on Twitter: @Basslady