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Page last updated at 15:28 GMT, Sunday, 16 November 2008

Everton 1-1 Middlesbrough

By Sam Lyon

Yakubu celebrates
Yakubu celebrates his crucial equaliser with Tim Cahill at Goodison Park

Yakubu marked his return from injury with his first goal in 10 matches as Everton drew with Middlesbrough.

Just eight minutes were on the clock when Gary O'Neil fired Boro's opener, slipping in unmarked at the near post.

But it was Everton who dominated in terms of chances, with Joleon Lescott hitting a post and Louis Saha and Tim Cahill wasteful in front of goal.

It was left to Yakubu to level from Mikel Arteta's free-kick, extending both sides' unbeaten run to five games.

Moyes rues conceding early goal

In doing so, Everton closed to within a point of Hull in sixth spot in the table, while Boro move up to eighth.

But it will be the visitors who leave Goodison Park the happier, despite some impressive play from both sides in a keenly fought encounter.

Based on home form alone, Everton would have started the match in the drop zone and, despite coming into the game on the back of three wins, it was they who started nervously.

Middlesbrough made them pay. Stewart Downing broke well and combined with Sanli Tuncay before feeding O'Neil, who took a touch and tucked the ball in at the near post with aplomb.

The goal owed much to some awful Everton defending and it set the tone for the match - the hosts probing and controlling possession, but with Boro looking dangerous on the break.


Yakubu, fit again after his recent heel injury, had a glorious chance to level five minutes after the goal when he ran on to Saha's flick-on, only to be denied by an excellent Ross Turnbull save, while Lescott came closer still when his clipped cross floated over the keeper's head and hit the post.

Tuncay and Afonso Alves were causing plenty of problems on the counter at the other end, but it was Everton creating the better chances and Boro were fortunate when Yakubu went down under Turnbull's challenge, only for referee Howard Webb to wave away the penalty appeals.

And when Cahill rose to meet a corner completely unmarked eight yards only to head wide, one wondered if the hosts may live to regret their profligacy.

Southgate satisfied with away point

However, Everton fans need not have worried, with their equaliser coming soon after the hour mark, ironically during Boro's best spell of possession in the match.

Minutes after Saha had sent a crashing diving header wide from a flowing Everton move, former Middlesbrough striker Yakubu levelled when he got the decisive touch on Arteta's free-kick from six yards out.

Boro looked for an immediate response and very nearly got one when Didier Digard curled goalwards from 20 yards, keeper Tim Howard pushing the effort on to the post.

But it was Everton who went closest to a winner when Yakubu found himself free in the box, only to send his drive across goal and away for a goal kick.

Despite a late flurry from both sides, neither could muster a winner - as David Moyes marked his 250th game in charge of the hosts with a draw.

Everton manager David Moyes:
"We missed a lot of opportunities and have played better. When they went ahead with a goal on the counter-attack there was always the chance that they could do that again, so we needed to be careful.

"But give us credit, we kept going forward although we found it very difficult to score.

"I was pleased for Yakubu to have scored. He had a couple of other chances beforehand so he will be pleased with his effort too. He did a lot better in this one, overall it was a better performance from him."

Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate:
"We played very well in the first half but we needed a second goal in that spell to see us through.

"We did well on the break, but we didn't pass the ball well enough. We showed some different characteristic in this one, we had to roll our sleeves up and defend the box. We are young and we are learning.

"But we have taken eight points from our last four away games and we are unbeaten in five since losing to Chelsea. That is as good a run as anyone else in the division."

Everton: Howard, Neville, Yobo, Jagielka, Lescott, Arteta, Fellaini, Cahill (Anichebe 85), Osman (Pienaar 72), Yakubu (Vaughan 88), Saha.
Subs Not Used: Nash, Hibbert, Baines, Castillo.

Goal: Yakubu 65.

Middlesbrough: Turnbull, Hoyte, Riggott (Wheater 52), Pogatetz, Taylor, O'Neil, Digard, Arca (Adam Johnson 69), Downing, Alves (Emnes 84), Sanli.
Subs Not Used: Jones, Franks, Grounds, Walker.

Booked: Digard, Pogatetz.

Goal: O'Neil 8.

Att: 31,063

Ref: Howard Webb (S Yorkshire).

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Middlesbrough's Gary O'Neil 7.90 (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.

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see also
No doubts over Alves - Southgate
17 Nov 08 |  Middlesbrough
Premier League as it happened
16 Nov 08 |  Premier League
Sunday's football photos
16 Nov 08 |  Football

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