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MATCH REPORT

Posted on 5 December 2006  - 12:00

Robbie Keane scored a dramatic winner with just six minutes remaining after it looked like Middlesbrough might have snatched a point at the Lane.

Robbie Keane scored a dramatic winner with just six minutes remaining after it looked like Middlesbrough might have snatched a point at the Lane.The team were looking good value for a win when Dimitar Berbatov netted his seventh goal of the season not long after the interval, but dominance was not converted into the currency of further goals and Boro capitalised with an equaliser from Robert Huth.

There thankfully followed some Keano intervention to secure the win and banish some of the hurt from the weekend's defeat.

There was a sprightly start to the game with Jermain Defoe looking his dynamic self linking up with lightening Aaron Lennon either side of Berbatov in attack. There was an early purpose and conviction that was so lacking on Saturday, but the first real high alert was at the wrong end when Yakubu spun and hooked a shot not that far wide of Paul Robinson's right hand upright.

Mark Schwarzer would have been a helpless bystander if a Defoe free-kick from 20 yards out had been a foot lower on 15 minutes, shortly before a Didier Zokora run led to the ball running loose in front of the little striker but Andrew Taylor executed a brave block. Defoe then really tested the Australian keeper with a rasping drive that was just about parried to safety.

The chances were coming thick and fast, but the breakthrough frustratingly elusive in the first 40 minutes, a Defoe dart and shot quickly followed by a rasper from Tom Huddlestone that Schwarzer just managed to tip over the bar.

Boro made a double change at half-time, with James Morrison and Julio Arca introduced for the second half in place of Malcolm Christie and Andrew Taylor. The changes did not turn out to be immediately inspired.

On 47 minutes a Huddlestone free-kick from the left was headed back across goal by Pascal Chimbonda and there followed a moment of class from Berbatov - the striker altering his stance in order to athletically hook the ball beyond Schwarzer and into the net. It was a well deserved breaking of the deadlock in our favour.

Defoe was in position to make it two after busting the Boro rearguard ten minutes into the second period before a last ditch lunge by the hugely impressive Jonathan Woodgate denied Berbatov's sidekick for the night. Defoe went on to pick out Chimbonda running from deep to the far post from a clever free-kick, but the full-back miscued his shot and the only net rattled was the side netting.

Robbo had his palms warmed by a thumping free-kick from Huth on the hour, a passage of play that resulted in Morrison stabbing a shot wide from point blank range.

Huddlestone was an impressive figure in the centre of the park, marshalling the midfield troops but also showing a real willingness to thrust forward in support of the more diminutive threat of messrs Defoe, Lennon and Malbranque.

It was Lennon who was next to produce a moment of magic, brilliantly wrong footing the visiting defence and rolling the ball into the path of Defoe who, unfortunately once again, saw the imposing Schwarzer looming in front of him to make a block.

With the clock ticking down slowly there was always going to be a danger with such a narrow advantage and, with the ball bobbling around in the area following a set piece, Boro levelled with ten minutes remaining when Huth slammed the ball home to give his side an unlikely share of the spoils.

Martin responded by bringing on Robbie Keane for Malbranque and was about to be swiftly followed by Teemu Tainio before Keane took matters into his own hands - or right foot on 84 minutes.

Huddlestone took a short free-kick which took the visitors by surprise and the substitute looked up and smashed the ball from 20-odd yards past Schwarzer and into the net. The goalkeeper will not want to see too many replays.

There was late drama when Zokora and Boateng were dismissed after a melee resulting from a hefty challenge on Lennon and Emanuel Pogatetz was fortunate not to go the same way after a nasty lunge on Huddlestone.

It ended up with a feisty finish and a welcome three points in our account.