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 Saturday, 14 December, 2002, 16:53 GMT
Boro peg back Chelsea
Middlesbrough midfielder Geremi scored the opening goal
Geremi put Boro ahead after 32 minutes
Middlesbrough 1-1 Chelsea

Chelsea missed out on the chance to go top of the Premiership when they were held to a 1-1 draw at Middlesbrough.

In a pulsating battle at the Riverside Middlesbrough took the lead through on-loan midfielder Geremi, but a goal from the recalled John Terry earned the visitors a point.

We're disappointed because I think Chelsea deserved more - we had two or three chances more to win

Chelsea manager
Claudio Ranieri

Chelsea went into the game knowing a win would see them leapfrog Manchester United and Arsenal to move into top spot for the first time since January 1999.

But Boro proved to be a match for Claudio Ranieri's side as they maintained their unbeaten home run.

The visitors got off to a good start with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink wasting three early chances.

The Dutchman volleyed well over the bar in the opening minute and was given another shooting opportunity after good work by Frank Lampard but he again failed to hit the target.

Gianfranco Zola put in a dangerous cross that Hasselbaink failed to get his head to.

In between Middlesbrough could have scored when the recalled Szilard Nemeth put in a cross which was volleyed by Gareth Southgate but it was too close to Carlo Cudicini.

Key moments
32 mins: Geremi's free-kick opens the scoring
33 mins: Maccarone misses a chance to put Boro 2-0 ahead
42 mins: Terry gets Chelsea back on level terms
61 mins: Nemeth has the ball in the back of the net, but he is offside

But there was nothing the Chelsea keeper could do in the 32nd minute when Boro went in front somewhat against the run of play.

The referee awarded the home side a dubious free-kick in a dangerous position and Geremi fired it over the wall and into the corner past the outstretched Cudicini.

Chelsea could have been level within a minute when Zola wriggled through the Teessiders' defence but he was denied by Mark Schwarzer.

Middlesbrough broke immediately and Nemeth beat William Gallas and crossed for an unmarked Massimo Maccarone, who missed a glaring opportunity from close range to double their lead.

Lampard then looked to have equalised when he made his way into the area and appeared to have sent Schwarzer the wrong way, but the ball hit the keeper's ankle and looped over the bar.

It was harsh luck on Chelsea, but they only had to wait five minutes before they were on level terms.

It was important not to lose, but the biggest thing for me was the performance of the players - I thought they were magnificent

Boro manager
Steve McClaren

A poor corner from Hasselbaink somehow made its way through to Terry at the back post and the big defender had the simple task of firing home from close range.

Chelsea could have been ahead when a corner from Zola was met by Petit but his header was blocked on the line by Maccarone.

Nemeth had the ball in the net but he was judged offside, while substitute Noel Whelan went close with a header from a Geremi cross as Middlesbrough stepped up their efforts.

Both sides continued to press forward but the two tightest defences in the Premiership held out.


Middlesbrough: Schwarzer, Queudrue, Ehiogu, Southgate, Parnaby, Boateng, Greening, Geremi, Nemeth, Maccarone (Whelan 45), Boksic.
Subs Not Used: Vidmar, Wilson, Crossley, Wilkshire.

Chelsea: Cudicini, Melchiot, Gallas, Terry, Le Saux, Gronkjaer (De Lucas 73), Lampard, Petit, Stanic (Zenden 67), Zola, Hasselbaink (Gudjohnsen 83).
Subs Not Used: de Goey, Morris.

Booked: Petit.

Att: 29,160

Referee: M Messias (N Yorkshire).

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 BBC Five Live's Steve Wilson
"Chelsea are championship contenders"
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