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Saturday, 27 April, 2002, 19:06 GMT 20:06 UK
Blues boss hails Cole
Carlton Cole makes his presence felt
Cole has scored 36 goals for the reserves this season
Chelsea coach Claudio Ranieri saluted "young lion" Carlton Cole after the 18-year-old striker scored on his first senior start against Middlesbrough.

Cole headed a stunning goal to put the Blues on course to victory at the Riverside, Boudewijn Zenden securing a comfortable win with the second.

The youngster has been a prolific scorer for Chelsea's reserve side but had previously made just one senior outing as a substitute.

And he only got his chance on Saturday when Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink suffered a calf strain during the warm-up.

Nobody got injured and that is very important before the final
Claudio Ranieri

Boro boss Steve McLaren agreed to a late swap after the team-sheets had been signed, with Ranieri keen not to risk his top scorer before next Saturday's FA Cup final against Arsenal.

"There's no problem with Jimmy; he felt his calf tighten and I decided to take a precaution and preserve him for the final," said Ranieri.

"I preferred to play with my 'young lion' Carlton Cole instead. He played well, scored a goal and afterwards became much more confident and held up the ball well.

"I was happy with his performance. He has scored a lot of goals for the reserves - 36 already this season."

Ranieri also left Eidur Gudjohnsen on the bench as a precaution but both he and Hasselbaink will be fit for the Cup final.

Boudewijn Zenden tangles with Boro defender Robbie Stockdale
Zenden (left) added the decisive second
The Italian added: "I asked my players to play with the same concentration as every game because it's important to have the same mentality.

"I am also happy because nobody got injured and that is very important before the final."

By contrast it was a dismal finish to Boro's season at the Riverside, with McLaren critical of his players' failure to take several good chances.

He also questioned the refereeing of Barry Knight, who disallowed two first-half efforts including one by Colin Cooper.

"We are disappointed with the result as we wanted to finish on a high," McLaren said.

It is about the whole season and I have told the players to be proud of what they have achieved
Steve McLaren

"There were a few turning points in the game - we thought we should have had the first goal but it was disallowed.

"That was a strange decision - there were a lot of strange decisions in the game."

A third consecutive league defeat ended Boro's hopes of beating their previous best Premiership finish of ninth place.

But McLaren refused to be too downbeat after a solid campaign in his first year in charge.

"It is about the whole season and I have told the players to be proud of what they have achieved," he added.

"We can still finish in the top half of the table and I would have been happy with that at the beginning of the season - and even happier after we lost our first four games."

BBC Sport's Alan Biggs
"Carlton Cole scored a stunning first goal"
Chelsea's Carlton Cole
"I'm over the moon"
Links to more Eng Prem stories are at the foot of the page.


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