Sunday, 17 August 2008
Mido's touch downs Spurs
For the first time in seven years, Boro have made a winning start to the Premier League season. Pre-season optimism will last into a second week after a 2-1 win over Tottenham. David Wheater and Mido scored the goals to earn a deserved three points.
Boro had the best of an opening half against a Spurs team who failed to convert their impressive ball retention with any serious goalscoring threat. It was a combination of profligacy and refereeing ineptitude which kept the scoresheet blank at half time. Afonso Alves should have opened the scoring after Tuncay broke clear but the recovering Benoit Assou-Ekotto managed to make a decisive block.
Referee Martin Atkinson then came to Tottenham's rescue. Wheater evaded the attention of Michael Dawson to head past Heurelho Gomes but Atkinson inexplicably ruled the goal out. Replays clearly showed the only possible infringement had been committed by the visiting centre-half.
The threat to a new-look back line increased when Spurs belatedly introduced the mercurial Dimitar Berbatov to a mixed response from the 3,800 visiting fans. It was Berbatov's touch which sent Jermaine Jenas through on goal but the much-maligned Brad Jones responded with a fine stop.
Belief had begun to drain but Jones' intervention reinvigorated Boro's spirits. The breakthrough came with twenty minutes to play. Downing's corner was only partially cleared but the winger's second effort caused more problems. Afonso Alves' near post shot was superbly turned onto the bar by Gomes only for the ball to rebound to Wheater. The makeshift right-back, positioned a yard from an unguarded net, could not miss.
The lead was doubled four minutes from time as Boro's two substitutes combined. The impressive Didier Digard screwed a shot across the face of goal and ex-Spurs man Mido turned the ball home. A buoyant home crowd took the opportunity to ask Jonathan Woodgate to confirm the scoreline.
A tiring Jeremie Aliadiere wasted a chance to make it 3-0 before Robert Huth's glanced own goal gave Spurs a consolation in the dying embers of stoppage time.
It was an uplifting start to the season, an exciting, high-quality game in front of a healthy crowd. Whether that optimism can survive a trip to Anfield remains to be seen but, for now, there seems much to loom forward to.
Jones 7 Only flapped once and made a crucial save from Jenas
Wheater 8 Fine effort in an unusual full-back role and a huge threat from set pieces
Taylor 6 Competent without being totally convincing
Huth 7 Own goal was an insignificant blot on a solid display
Pogatetz 7 Commanding
Aliadiere 7 Lively presence down the right
Downing 8 Dangerous as ever. Quality service.
O'Neil 7 Energetic if a little wasteful on the ball
Shawky 7 Solid
Tuncay 8 Never gave the visiting defence a moment's rest
Alves 8 Showed his class and a deft change of pace
Posted by MR at 19:38