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Boro loss hits Reds' bid for title

LIVERPOOL'S lingering English Premier League title hopes virtually disappeared on Saturday when it lost 0-2 at Middlesbrough as the home side secured its first league win in 15 matches.

Liverpool's second league defeat of the season leaves it on 55 points, seven behind leader Manchester United, which was playing Tottenham Hotspur in the League Cup final yesterday and now has a game in hand.

Chelsea climbed above Liverpool into second on goal difference after an injury-time header by Frank Lampard gave the Blues a 2-1 home win over Wigan Athletic.

Aston Villa, fourth on 51, was hosting Stoke City yesterday and Arsenal's chance of catching it suffered another setback when it was held at home by Fulham for its fourth successive goalless Premier League draw.

Arsenal was booed off and is now just two points ahead of sixth-placed Everton, which beat West Bromwich Albion 2-0.

For once, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger did not blame the opposition's negative approach for his team's failure to score.

"Fulham played well, it was not a 0-0 game. It could have been 2-2 but we lacked fresh legs," he told Sky Sports.

Yesterday, Blackburn Rovers scored two goals in the space of two minutes to beat Hull City 2-1 and claw their way out of the drop zone.

Also yesterday, West Ham United beat mid-table rival Manchester City 1-0 at Upton Park and Bolton Wanderers edged visiting Newcastle United by the same score.

Hull and Blackburn both ended their match with 10 men, with the home side's Dean Marney sent off in the 63rd and Blackburn's Morten Gamst Pedersen following eight minutes later for a second booking.

Blackburn took the lead in the 34th minute after an error by goalkeeper Matt Duke was pounced on by Roque Santa Cruz, who set up Stephen Warnock to side foot into the top of the net.

Warnock then crossed from the left two minutes later for Keith Andrews to tap home. Hull pulled a goal back through Ian Ashbee in the 79th.

Blackburn is 17th on 26 points, ahead of Middlesbrough on goal difference.

Liverpool's failure to win the league for 20 years while continuing to taste success in the Champions League has been encapsulated by its performances in the last week.

On Wednesday it humbled Real Madrid in its own stadium but that triumph was sandwiched between a 1-1 home draw with Manchester City and Saturday's defeat by a Middlesbrough team which 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-time European champion had won only once in its last nine visits to Middlesbrough.

Boro went ahead after 32 minutes when Stewart Downing's cross hit Xabi Alonso's thigh and flew in for an own-goal. The second came after 64 when Jeremie Aliadiere cut the ball back for Turkey forward Tuncay to score.


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