UEFA CUP – Lightning does strike twice!

“MIDDLESBROUGH MANAGER, Steve McClaren, will have looked for a similar performance to that against Basle in the quarter-final home leg from his team this Thursday night.”

Prophetic words indeed from The Resident last week, which literally became true. In a virtual action replay of the Basle tie, ‘Boro conceded two early goals to find themselves three down and needing to score four by virtue of Steaua Bucharest’s away goals, just as they did three weeks earlier. And again, the 36,000 Riverside crowd spent 90 minutes on the edge of their seats, urging on their come-back heroes to be left celebrating late into the night at the end.

The Uefa Cup final on May 10 in Eindhoven seemed a million miles away after 25 minutes of this enthralling contest, as Steaua raced into a 2-0 lead, increasing their advantage to three on aggregate. But the Romanians and their Portuguese keeper wilted. Massimo Maccarone opened the floodgates in the 33rd minute with a beautifully struck shot across goal, and Viduka and Riggott weighed in with their own efforts after the break to set up a grandstand finish. Again Maccarone proved the saviour, rising majestically in the last minute of normal time to head home the priceless winner, sealing an improbable 4-3 victory. It seems that Middlesbrough’s name is etched on the cup this season, and now only Seville, who needed extra time to edge Schalke 04 out 1-0 in Spain, stand in the way of achieving final glory in only their second ever European season.