Strike duo boost Boro
By Mark Kendall. Last Updated: 06/12/04 9:55pm
Middlesbrough kept in touch with the top four after a 3-2 win over Manchester City, but were made to work all the way by Kevin Keegan's men.
Mark Viduka and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink both ended barren patches in front of goal to get Boro back to winning ways after two straight defeats.
Viduka grabbed a brace while a free-kick from Hasselbaink ensured that Robbie Fowler's goal and a debut strike from Bradley Wright-Phillips were no more than a consolation for a spirited City side.
It was the visitors who created the first chance on four minutes, Joey Barton slipped in Fowler who was allowed time to turn and measure a cross from the by-line, but his weak centre was knocked out for a corner by Gareth Southgate.
Hasselbaink got his first sniff of goal on six minutes, but after latching on to Boudewijn Zenden's floated through-ball he was crowded out by Sylvain Distin.
Colin Cooper went close two minutes later but headed over Stewart Downing's inviting left-wing corner.
However, Boro did not have to wait long for their breakthrough and were ahead just sixty seconds later. Downing was again the architect, laying a simple ball into the path of Viduka who expertly controlled the ball to sweep past Richard Dunne before delightfully dinking his finish over the advancing David James for his first goal in 12 games.
Strike partner Hasselbaink did his best to end his own personal goal-drought - which stretched back nine matches - on 16 minutes, but was once again denied by Distin on the edge of the box and, when the ball ran loose, Viduka got too much on his chip.
Boro should have doubled their lead on the half hour mark when a raking Downing ball from the left released Hasselbaink into the box, the Dutchman squared for Viduka who attempted to shoot instead of lay off to the unmarked Zenden and saw his effort scrambled away by Dunne.
City took advantage of the profligacy to draw level on 39 minutes with a goal very much against the run of play.
Distin slung in a lofted cross from the left which Macken flicked into the path of Fowler who collected well before firing home powerfully off Schwarzer from ten yards.
Szilard Nemeth could have restored the hosts' lead before the interval, but he and Downing got in each other's way and the chance passed.
The lead was restored nine minutes into the second period with a goal which spoke volumes about the understanding Viduka and Hasselbaink have built up.
The Australian went short to collect a throw from Tony McMahon, and turned sharply to lay the ball into Hasselbaink before running on to curl his partner's lay-off superbly past James and into the far corner.
It was not long before Hasselbaink finally got his name on the scoresheet as well, although City were unhappy with the decision that enabled him to find the net.
The Dutchman went down theatrically under challenge from Richard Dunne twenty yards from goal, but there was no doubting the quality of his free-kick which flew around the wall and past James.
Steve McClaren's men were rampant by now and a teasing Downing cross had just too much pace on it for Zenden who could not quite convert at the far post.
Just when the home side were looking to push home their advantage City earned themselves a lifeline when substitute Bradley Wright-Phillips notched his maiden senior goal twelve minutes from time.
The youngster spun sharply on a back-post knock-down from Danny Mills and fired a low shot past the flat-footed Schwarzer.
Viduka then spurned an excellent chance to complete his hat-trick when he failed to connect with a pinpoint Downing cross from the right, while Wright-Phillips could have grabbed his second of the night but fired wastefully over from the edge of the box.
In a rampant finish from City, Schwarzer had to be alert to tip a rasping Barton drive over for a corner, and there was a last-gasp chance for Shaun Wright-Phillips, but when his shot sailed over so did City's hopes of a point.
Click here for Middlesbrough v Manchester City player ratings.
|Middlesbrough||Team Statistics||Manchester City|
|1||1st Half Goals||1|
|7||Shots on Target||4|
|3||Shots off Target||4|
Barclays Premier League
|13||West Ham United||4||4|
|16||Queens Park Rangers||4||3|
|19||West Bromwich Albion||4||2|