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Last Updated: Saturday, 24 February 2007, 16:57 GMT
Middlesbrough 2-1 Reading
By John May

Mark Viduka celebrate Boro's opening goal
Marcus Hahnemann ruefully watches the Boro celebrations
Middlesbrough's dynamic duo, Mark Viduka and Yakubu, came up trumps to dent Reading's European ambitions at the Riverside.

A well-worked set-piece left Emmanuel Pogatetz free to head back for Viduka to backheel Boro's opener.

Viduka then combined telepathically with his strike partner to play Yakubu in to bury his 16th goal of the season.

Reading were lacklustre until John Oster's first Premiership goal for 10 years sparked a late surge.

Boro took just 10 minutes to take the lead with a perfectly-worked goal straight off the training ground.

As Stuart Downing shaped to take a free-kick for a foul on Yakubu, half a dozen Boro players loitered like conspirators to the right of the ball.

606: DEBATE
DB

Their starburst threw out Reading's markers, leaving Pogatetz free at the far post to head back across goal where Viduka controlled the ball with his back to goal and backheeled it over the line from a yard out.

Reading worked the ball wide to Graeme Murty on the right and his deep first-time cross found Stephen Hunt unmarked at the far post but the Irishman planted his header embarrassingly wide.

Michael Duberry was making his Reading debut at the age of 31 but matched Yakubu for pace and eased the Boro striker out as he looked to latch on to a through ball.

Duberry breathed a sigh of relief, though, when under pressure from Viduka he sliced the ball goalwards and forced Marcus Hahnemann into a save.

Jonathan Woodgate and Reading's Shane Long
Shane Long got little change out of Jonathan Woodgate

Reading were getting a taste of the medicine they have dished out to so many teams this season, as Boro used the width to stretch them at the back, with Downing a constant menace on the left with his pace and delivery.

On the other flank, Lee Cattermole's cross deceived Hahnemann who backpedalled frantically as the ball dropped on to the top of the bar.

Jonathan Woodgate and Pogatetz had largely kept Leroy Lita and Shane Long in their back pockets but as half-time approached, Long was presented with a half chance which he screwed wide.

Reading pinned Boro back at the start of the second half, but for all their pressure, they failed to force Mark Schwarzer to make a save.

In contrast, Boro were incisive on the break and after Yakubu took a return pass from Viduka he saw his shot blocked by the sprawling Hahnemann's face.

But Reading's persistence and doggedness has become legend and Long saw his shot blocked by Pogatetz's midriff with referee Mark Halsey rightly ignoring penalty appeals.

Long's last contribution saw him scuttle into space before grazing the top of the bar with a toe-poked effort.

Boro were good value for their lead but a well-worked second gave them breathing space.

Julio Arca found Viduka who held the ball up before playing it into Yakubu's feet. The Nigerian rolled his marker and his powerful left-foot shot flashed past Hahnemann at his near post.

Reading came from two goals down to beat Boro on the opening day of the season and sparked hopes of a repeat when Oster scored his first Premiership goal for almost 10 years, hammering a first-time shot into the ground and seeing it bounce over Schwarzer's dive.


  • Boss Gareth Southgate hands out plaudits for Boro's set-piece opener:
    "Malcolm Crosby takes credit for digging that routine out of his football manual of 1965.

    "We make life difficult for ourselves, at 2-0 we were comfortable, but credit to Reading who never stopped.

    "We went backwards and sqaure too much at time, but we're still learning how to win matches."

  • Reading manager Steve Coppell:
    "It wasn't a plan to leave it late to get into gear.

    "The first half was disjointed for both sides but they scored so you have a different perception of the 45 minutes after that.

    "In the second half we played terrifically well and had some great opportunities but left ourselves a little bare at the back."


    Middlesbrough: Schwarzer, Davies, Woodgate, Pogatetz, Taylor, Cattermole (Morrison 74), Boateng, Arca, Downing, Viduka, Yakubu (Lee 85).
    Subs Not Used: Jones, Parnaby, Euell.

    Booked: Taylor.

    Goals: Viduka 7, Yakubu 69.

    Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Duberry, Ingimarsson, Shorey, Hunt (Oster 72), Sidwell, Harper, Little, Long (Kitson 62), Lita.
    Subs Not Used: Federici, Gunnarsson, De la Cruz.

    Booked: Ingimarsson.

    Goals: Oster 87.

    Att: 26,412

    Referee: M Halsey (Lancashire).



    SEE ALSO
    Premiership clockwatch
    24 Feb 07 |  Premiership
    Saturday's football photos
    24 Feb 07 |  Football
    Lawro's predictions
    17 Mar 07 |  FA Cup


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