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Page last updated at 15:54 GMT, Saturday, 16 August 2008 16:54 UK

Middlesbrough 2-1 Tottenham

By Sam Lyon

Dimitar Berbatov
Berbatov's omission raised more questions about his Tottenham future

Mido returned to haunt his former club as Middlesbrough eased to a comfortable victory over Spurs at the Riverside.

Spurs dominated possession but it was Boro that created the chances and David Wheater was unfortunate to have a header ruled out for a foul.

His luck changed, though, in the second half when he bundled home the opener after Afonso Alves had hit the bar.

And substitute Mido wrapped it up as he fired in from 12 yards, before Rob Huth put through his own goal late on.

Poyet disappointed with first-day defeat

But it was of little consolation for Juande Ramos's side after a performance lacking in incision and firepower was exposed by an effervescent Middlesbrough team.

Much of the talk before the game had been about Tottenham's array of attacking talent, but it was the omission of one of their star forwards - Dimitar Berbatov - that created the biggest stir.

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The Manchester United target cannot have been happy when he found out he was on the bench before the game, but might have afforded himself a wry smile when witnessing the lack of service to his successor Darren Bent.

David Bentley, Giovani dos Santos and Aaron Lennon buzzed and hussled behind the lone striker but without success as Spurs struggled to find their feet and, instead, it was the hosts' frontline that impressed.

Sanli Tuncay, Jeremie Aliadiere and Alves were forever causing the Spurs backline - and Michael Dawson in particular - problems, and the latter should have opened the scoring when a break from a Spurs corner found him free in the box, only for his tame effort to be deflected over.

For all their possession, Spurs struggled to get behind the Boro defence, and a clipped Bentley effort wide from 20 yards was the closest they came in a frustrating first 45 minutes.

Jermaine Jenas and Sanli Tuncay
Tuncay gets the better of Jenas as Boro ease to an impressive win
It was a half that should have been all the more frustrating for the visitors when Wheater stooped to apparently head in the opener from Stuart Downing's corner, only for it to be disallowed for a foul on Dawson.

And Boro created a third great chance of the half when Tuncay cut back for Alves to lash inches over with Heurelho Gomes stretched in the Spurs goal just minutes later.

The home fans could have been forgiven for fearing a Spurs backlash, but Boro continued in exactly the same vein in the second half.

First Alves drilled wide and Tuncay then forced a brilliant block from Jonathan Woodgate from 12 yards.

With 25 minutes remaining, Spurs boss Ramos had seen enough and Berbatov - to a mixed reaction from the visiting faithful - was introduced.

Immediately, Spurs looked more of a threat and Brad Jones was forced into a great stop with his feet after Berbatov had freed Jermaine Jenas in the box.

However, with the visitors enjoying their best spell of the match, Boro took the lead.

Hard work preseason paid off - Southgate

Downing - the lynchpin of all of Boro's best play - crossed from the left and although Alves's shot was brilliantly tipped on to the bar by Gomes, Wheater bundled home the rebound.

It was no more than the hosts deserved and Gary O'Neil's bullet header from another pinpoint Downing cross moments later almost made it two.

Bent curled narrowly wide from 20 yards up the other end, but Spurs's brief late rally was halted when Mido stuck out a leg to deflect home Didier Digard's 20-yarder four minutes from time.

Huth rose to head into his own net from Bentley's corner in injury-time to give the scoreline some respectability for the visitors, but in truth it flattered Ramos's side and while he must get back to the drawing board, Boro fans can look forward with optimism.


Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate:
"We worked hard in pre-season and it was rewarded with a win in this match.

"We have showed that we are an attacking threat and we have some strength in depth on the bench.

"This is a great platform on which we must now build. For the first game of the season there is a lot of pressure but we delivered.

"We created a lot of chances after a nervy start."

Tottenham assistant boss Gus Poyet:
"We had a great pre-season but this is a different level.

"It was a difficult game and it looked like the team that scored first would get the three points and that is what happened.

"We did not defend well from set-pieces and that cost us the game.

"We have signed some new players and they are clever players and they now know what to expect and they have to believe in their abilities."


Middlesbrough: Jones, Wheater, Huth, Pogatetz, Taylor, Aliadiere, Shawky, O'Neil, Downing, Alves (Mido 82), Sanli (Digard 72).
Subs Not Used: Turnbull, Emnes, Adam Johnson, Williams, Grounds.

Booked: Digard.

Goals: Wheater 71, Mido 86.

Tottenham: Gomes, Zokora, Dawson, Woodgate, Assou-Ekotto (O'Hara 76), Lennon (Bale 65), Jenas, Modric, Bentley, Giovanni (Berbatov 65), Bent.
Subs Not Used: Cesar, Huddlestone, Gunter, King.

Booked: Jenas, Bentley.

Goals: Huth 90 og.

Att: 32,623

Ref: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire).

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Middlesbrough's Mido 8.00 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.




see also
Premier League as it happened
16 Aug 08 |  Premier League
Saturday's football photos
16 Aug 08 |  Football
How to watch Match of the Day
08 Oct 07 |  Match of the Day


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