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Liverpool lose at Boro and Chelsea go second
Mitch Phillips | February 28, 2009 23:34 IST
Liverpool's lingering Premier League title hopes virtually disappeared on Saturday when they lost 2-0 at Middlesbrough as the home side secured their first league win in 15 matches.
Liverpool's second league defeat of the season leaves them on 55 points, seven behind leaders Manchester United [Images], who play Tottenham Hotspur in the League Cup final on Sunday and now have a game in hand.
Chelsea climbed above Liverpool into second place on goal difference after am injury-time header by Frank Lampard [Images] gave them a 2-1 home win over Wigan Athletic.
Aston Villa, fourth on 51, host Stoke City on Sunday and Arsenal's [Images] chance of catching them took another dent when they were held at home by Fulham for their fourth successive goalless Premier League draw.
Arsenal were booed off at the Emirates and are now just two points ahead of sixth-placed Everton, who beat West Bromwich Albion 2-0.
Liverpool's failure to win the league for 20 years while continuing to taste success in the Champions League [Images] has been encapsulated by their performances in the last week.
On Wednesday they humbled Real Madrid [Images] in their own stadium but that triumph was sandwiched between a 1-1 home draw with Manchester City and Saturday's defeat by a Middlesbrough team who had not managed a league goal since January 10.
Recent history, though, suggested Saturday's result was not so much of an upset because the five times European champions had won only once in their last nine visits to Middlesbrough.
Roared on by a rare full house, Boro went ahead after 32 minutes when Stewart Downing's cross hit Xabi Alonso's [Images] thigh and flew in for an own goal.
The second came after 64 minutes when Jeremie Aliadiere escaped down the right and cut the ball back for their Turkey forward Tuncay, who calmly converted.
Morocco's Nabil El Zhar missed a sitter for the visitors when he fired over the bar from close range, while Dirk Kuyt also missed a great opportunity late on.
Both chances were created by Steven Gerrard [Images] but the midfielder, making his first start for almost a month, limped off 15 minutes from time with what appeared to be cramp.
"I think the manner of the performance was excellent, we knew we'd have to be at our best, we a were a threat going forward and were strong defensively as a team," Boro manager Gareth Southgate told Sky Sports.
"It was an important win for us, we've had four clean sheets in our last six, that's given us the confidence and now we are starting to score," he added after the victory moved his side moved out of the relegation zone.
Chelsea seemed to be on course to overhaul Liverpool on goal difference when captain John Terry's [Images] deflected first-half volley put them ahead against Wigan.
Steve Bruce's seventh-placed side have proved difficult opponents this season though and equalised through Olivier Kapo in the 82nd minute, only for Lampard to win it at the death.