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Posted on 28 April 2007  - 12:00

Robbie Keane scored twice to make it 21 goals for the season, with Dimitar Berbatov netting the other in a 3-2 victory over Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium.

Robbie Keane scored twice to make it 21 goals for the season, with Dimitar Berbatov netting the other in a 3-2 victory over Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium.
It is the first time Keano has broken the 20-goal barrier and himself and his strike partner now sit level on 21 goals each from all competitions this season.

The game itself was probably harder work than it should have been from 2-0 ahead, but it is three vital points banked towards our passport for Europe for next term.

There were two changes to last time out with Hossam Ghaly and Steed Malbranque coming in for the injured Teemu Tainio and Aaron Lennon, who started on the bench. Ghaly began patrolling the right flank, with the Frenchman operating down the left.

After some cagey sparring, Ghaly robbed a not too vigilant Stewart Downing of possession and spread play right where a lurking Dimitar Berbatov was waiting to spring into action. He cut inside his marker Andrew Davies, but couldn't quite generate enough power in his shot to seriously trouble Mark Schwarzer. The Bugarian was offered another opportunity moments later and on this occasion shot wide of the upright.

We did not have to wait too much longer for the scoreboard to click upwards in our favour. Berbatov seized the ball from Emanuel Pogatetz by the top left hand corner of the penalty area and advanced a little before rolling right in the direction of Robbie Keane, who proceeded to pick his spot and slot with ease past Schwarzer on 12 minutes.

It made it 13 goals in 12 games for the vice-captain, but was his partner who next went closest on 25 minutes after Jermaine Jenas battled to win back the ball from Mark Viduka and sent Berbatov on the charge down the right. With support a little slow he rattled in a shot that Schwarzer would have been happy to see end up behind his goal.

Such was the territorial sway held by the midfield in particular, it was a period where Martin Jol would doubtless have been calling for an increasing of the advantage, while in such command. The commanding Michael Dawson found his range late in the half with a sweetly struck ball to Berbatov down the right who, in turn, switched play inside but just too far in front of Keane for a second to be registered. There was then another carve up of the home side instigated by Berbatov, this time resulting in Didier Zokora attempting to take aim, but never looking likely to break his duck.

There was, however, a big scare at the other end on the break when Yakubu rode a couple of challenges inside the area and presented a shooting chance to strike partner Viduka, whose shot shaved the outside of Paul Robinson's right-hand post.

It took just two minutes of the second half to produce a moment of real quality. Ghaly, played in by Jenas down the right flank, ambled forward seemingly with few options, before taking the only viable one and crossing across the edge of the area in the direction of Berbatov. The striker leant back and, cool as you like, struck on the volley to the left of the despairing dive of Schwarzer. It was double delight for the supporters gathered behind the Australian's goal.

Keane could have added a second to his tally on 57 minutes when Malbranque split the home defences but, with Schwarzer beaten, the ball rolled past his right hand post.

The boys were then pressed back a little, while not being greatly troubled until Downing weaved in from the right with 66 minutes on the clock and clipped in a cross that Viduka nodded past Robinson with precision from about six yards out.

The advantage could have been wiped out completely two minutes later when a low George Boateng cross was drilled goalwards by Viduka and somehow Robinson reacted and prevented a leveller.

The next reaction was the introduction of Lennon for Ghaly, but still the action areas were where we would rather they weren't and Robinson again had to be alert to block a rasping drive from Viduka. There was going to be nothing routine about this afternoon from the minute Boro reduced the deficit.

Keane then couldn't control when Lennon picked him out inside the area and the comfort of a third goal looked like it was going to elude us until seven minutes from time when Jenas selected the run of Lennon and the speedy sub zipped inside and centred for Keane to fire into the roof of the net.

Pogatetz made it a nervous period of stoppage time after he scored from a header in the final minute and the points were gratefully gathered in the end.

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