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Last Updated: Sunday, 19 September, 2004, 15:59 GMT 16:59 UK
Everton 1-0 Middlesbrough

Everton goalscorer Marcus Bent
Everton's impressive start to the season continued as they moved up to third, thanks to Marcus Bent's second-half strike against Middlesbrough.

After wasting several good first-half chances, Bent raced clear of Boro's defence and saw his shot deflect in off Mark Schwarzer's diving body.

Middlesbrough, looking jaded after their midweek exertions in Europe, raised their game in the second period.

But Everton's defensive effort kept Boro at bay to secure all three points.

Neither side could settle early on as the blustery conditions made life difficult but Everton gradually began to take control in midfield.

Everton created the first chance on 10 minutes when Kevin Kilbane's inviting cross was headed straight at keeper Schwarzer by Bent.

Five minutes later, Boro again had their keeper to thank as a powerful Kilbane header, from Lee Carsley's excellent cross, was palmed athletically over the bar.

Boro took 18 minutes to create their first opportunity but Everton keeper Nigel Martyn comfortably saved Szilard Nemeth's low drive.

As Everton continued to up the tempo, an innocuous-looking Kilbane challenge on Chris Riggot sparked an ugly melee, with several players needlessly rushing over to join in the scuffle.

Boro's George Boateng was lucky to escape with a yellow card as he refused to let the matter drop with referee Howard Webb.

Shortly before half-time, Bent had another chance to score after Thomas Gravesen's long ball put him through on goal but Schwarzer tipped the ball past the post to save Boro again.

But two minutes into the second half, Bent finally got the reward for his hard work.

He latched on to Leon Osman's pass and beat Gareth Southgate for pace before clipping the ball into the net via a deflection off Franck Queudrue.

Everton then took their foot off the pedal as Boro took a foothold in midfield for the first time and fashioned good chances for Ray Parlour and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.

The home side rode their luck for long periods and central defensive pair Alan Stubbs and David Weir were forced into making countless valuable interventions.

With Hasselbaink and substitute Joseph-Desire Job causing problems up front, Everton were restricted to breakout efforts through Bent and Osman but seldom looked like adding to their lead.

As the seconds ticked by, Boro laid siege to the Everton goal and it took a brilliant Martyn save from Parlour in the last minute to keep Everton's lead intact.

James McFadden had the chance to make the game safe for Everton.

He ran through unopposed from the halfway line in the dying seconds but a lack of composure saw Schwarzer gather at the Scot's feet.


Everton: Martyn, Hibbert, Stubbs, Weir, Pistone, Osman, Watson (McFadden 81), Carsley, Gravesen, Kilbane, Bent (Ferguson 74).
Subs Not Used: Wright, Naysmith, Yobo.

Booked: Kilbane.

Goals: Bent 47.

Middlesbrough: Schwarzer, Parnaby, Southgate, Riggott, Queudrue, Nemeth (Doriva 45), Parlour, Boateng, Zenden (Downing 59), Hasselbaink, Viduka (Job 59).
Subs Not Used: Nash, Cooper.

Booked: Boateng, Riggott, Doriva, Parlour.

Att: 34,078

Ref: H Webb (S Yorkshire).




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