This wasn’t the Liverpool that cut Boro to ribbons at the Riverside in December, they were more workmanlike today, but three goals in 11 minutes clinically wrapped it up.
Backed by frenetic fans who created a cacophony of noise in the lead up to kick-off, Liverpool went for the quick start that would settle any nerves they may have had, perhaps more than was on public display.
With just 21 seconds played Roberto Firminho, a fitness doubt during the week, advanced t shoot low from around 25 yards.
Brad Guzan saved that one, but wasn’t needed the next time there was a threat as a low drive from Nathaniel Clyne flew through the penalty area untouched, but only just.
The visitors continued to be forced back, but were well organised and determined. A block from Ben Gibson on Georginio Wijnaldum inside the penalty area a perfect example.
Boro broke, Liverpool were stretched and Patrick Bamford was brought down just up from the left-hand edge of the penalty area. Stewart Downing just failed to clear the wall with the free-kick and Grant Leadbitter’s follow-up shot was blocked.
Arsenal had scored early in their game at home to Everton and as things stood it was the Gunners who were in the fourth European spot and had a penalty been awarded when Bamford looked to be caught then it may have been worse for Jurgen Klopp’s side.
Strong appeals were waved away, Liverpool regained composure and Emre Can, Philippe Coutinho and Wijnaldum all had shots blocked.
A cross from the left from Downing picked out Rudy Gestede, but a header from well inside the box was guided wide.
Quick footwork from Daniel Sturridge created room for a low shot that crept just wide as Liverpool pressed once more, but unlike Arsenal and Manchester City who by now were two up, they couldn’t find a way through.
With six minutes of the first half remaining George Friend linked up well on the edge of the penalty and tried to set up Bamford, only a hurried clearance from Dejan Lovren saved the day for Liverpool and a set of fans who were becoming a touch frustrated.
Approaching half-time City had increased their advantage to 4-0 at Watford, Arsenal remained two up and Liverpool, faced with dogged resistance still had it all to do.
Their breakthrough came six seconds into injury-time as Boro temporarily switched off allowing Georginio Wijnaldum too much space in the penalty area and the former Newcastle man smashed home a powerful shot from deep inside the box.
Half-time Liverpool 1 Middlesbrough 0
Five minutes into the second half Boro conceded a free-kick a few yards up from the edge of their penalty area in a central area. Up stepped Philippe Coutinho and with some whip and dip, the Brazilian dispatched the ball into the bottom right-hand corner of Guzan’s net.
Liverpool had breathing space and soon they had even more, scoring on the break from a Boro corner.
Boro were stretched, but looked to have dealt with the danger, until giving the ball away and allowing Adam Lallana a simple finish.
Not long after, Boro almost pulled one back when Adam Forshaw shot low from just inside the box and only a deflection off Lallana edged the ball just wide.
Another Boro corner brought more work for the Liverpool rearguard, but this time break – though no effort on goal either.
A Bamford header brought a scrambling save from Simon Mignolet, while at the other end Sturridge curled just over.
Calum Chambers, now at right-back as part of a double change that saw Fabio and Gestede replaced by Daniel Ayala (to warm applause from the Liverpool fans) and Alvaro Negredo, chipped a teasing ball into the box that Mignolet dealt with just under the bar and Forshaw sliced wide when set up with a well-weighted ball through the middle.
The day belonged to Liverpool.
Full-time Liverpool 3 Middlesbrough 0
Scorers Wijnaldum 45, Coutinho 50, Lallana 56
Liverpool Mignolet; Clyne, Wijnaldum, Lovren, Milner (Capt. to 85) (Moreno 85), Coutinho, Firminho (Lucas 79), Sturridge (Origi 82), Lallana, Can, Matip. Subs Karius (gk); Grujic, Klavan, Alexander-Arnold.
Middlesbrough Guzan; Fabio (Ayala 72), Chambers, Gibson, Friend, Bamford, Forshaw, Leadbitter (Capt), Clayton, Downing, Gestede (Negredo 72). Subs Konstantopoulos (gk); Bernardo, De Roon, Stuani, Fischer. Order of subs on 72: 1) Ayala 2) Negredo
Referee Martin Atkinson. West Yorkshire
Boro Gestede 56, dissent
Conditions Bright, dry and breezy
Attendance 53,191 (2,968 Boro)