Yak foils Albion revival
By Chris Stanton. Last Updated: 27/11/05 4:55pm
Middlesbrough and West Bromwich Albion had to settle for a 2-2 draw in a highly-entertaining match at The Riverside.
Mark Viduka's exquisite finish put the home side into the lead before Albion issued an immediate riposte through the lively Nathan Ellington.
Nwankwo Kanu shot the visitors into a second half lead but Yakubu's spot kick levelled up matters at two apiece. Despite late chances at both ends that is the way it stayed and deservedly so as neither side deserved to lose what was a compelling contest.
It was a bright start from the visitors who forced a series of early corners but were unable to draw a save from the returning Mark Schwarzer in Boro's goal.
And for all of Albion's early endeavour it was the home side who took a 12th minute lead from what appeared little more than a half chance for Viduka.
George Boateng, eager to advance ahead of play, fed Viduka, who in turn, looked to return a pass to the foraging Dutchman only for the ball to ricochet off Neil Clement. The ball fell once again at the feet of the Australian and, without hesitation, he placed a shot wide of Tomasz Kuszczak with the outside of his right foot to gift the home side an unwarranted lead.
Unbowed, Albion continued to take the fight to their hosts. Ellington finally forced Schwarzer into his first save but the Australian was not unduly troubled by the striker's tame set piece effort. The striker was considerably more forceful moments later.
Kanu's persistence and Franck Queudrue's indecision freed Ellington 10 yards out and he made no mistake in dispatching a fine goal beyond Schwarzer and into the bottom left hand corner to level the scores.
Albion's back-line was almost caught napping by Emanuel Pogatetz five minutes later but The Baggies were thankful of the contribution of Kuszczak who pushed the Boro defender's free header around the post.
Kuszczak was called upon once again to parry Fabio Rochemback's fierce 30-yard shot as the driving rain and quick pitch played havoc with the two sides' best laid defensive plans and further chances came and went.
Ellington's close range shot was blocked by Chris Riggott before Boateng volleyed over as Boro began to assert their territorial supremacy as the first half drew to a close.
Boro made the more positive start to the second, too, but a fine break from the visitors saw Kanu shoot Albion into a 2-1 lead shortly before the hour mark.
Having just defended a free kick from Rochemback and the subsequent corner, a ball over the top from Ellington found left back Paul Robinson in unfamiliar territory on the right side of the Boro penalty area.
He fed Kanu who finished in consummate fashion, first feinting to shoot with his left foot before dragging the ball back on to his right and finishing low from 20 yards.
The visitors' lead lasted just nine minutes when referee Peter Walton correctly adjudged Robinson to have fouled substitute Szilard Nemeth in the penalty area and pointed to the spot despite the vehement protestations of the full back. Yakubu sent Albion's Pole the wrong way to restore parity.
Albion momentarily lost their composure and Rochemback almost capitalised but his deflected effort was saved by Kuszczak and Nemeth cleared the crossbar with a header from the rebound.
A reverse ball from Rochemback then found Nemeth but the Slovakian's cross was blocked. Pogatetz's delivery also narrowly eluded Viduka.
The away side had opportunities of their own as well - substitute Darren Carter's shot was blocked by Riggott and Ronnie Wallwork then tested Schwarzer. The final glorious opening of an engaging match fell to Jonathan Greening but the midfielder dragged his shot wide when he could have been the hero against his former club.
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