It was all so different in the first half, when Hamilton Ricard, Middlesbrough's reborn Colombian striker, eluded their Everton's every tackle. With Dean Gordon expansive down the left and Robbie Mustoe tenacious in midfield, Boro were on top from the kick-off.
It was Ricard who started the move which brought Boro's first chance. After an audacious attempt at a lob, he chested the rebound to Mikkel Beck, who slipped in the ball for Gianluca Festa. The Italian rode one challenge and stabbed goalwards but Dave Watson, on his 500th Everton appearance, desperately deflected wide.
Ricard's chest opened the scoring in the 27th minute. Mustoe returned Paul Gascoigne's long corner, Beck outjumped Thomas Myhre who had come out too far and, on the line, the ball dribbled down Ricard's body and into the net.
He scored his fifth goal in three games in the 35th minute when Beck's cross flew over David Unsworth, leaving the Colombian to place his header across Myhre. Everton were simply not in the game and Robson acknowledged: "We will not have a more comfortable 45 minutes all season."
But the visiting manager Walter Smith's riposte was as swift as it was effective. At the break he replaced Don Hutchison with Cadamarteri and dropped Nick Barmby into midfield. The substitute explained: "He said to me that Middlesbrough have three big central defenders who will be concentrating on Duncan, so get in behind them."
Within 40 seconds of the restart he had done just that. He wriggled around Steve Vickers on the left of the area and fell over his legs. Michael Ball, his fellow 18-year-old, calmly converted the penalty. "Vickers dived in with a rash challenge when Everton had a lot to do," Robson said. "Suddenly there were three or four of them rushing to get the ball out of the net."
Astonishingly, within four minutes of the restart Everton were equal. Cadamarteri started the move and Alex Cleland slipped the ball inside to John Collins on the edge of the area. As the Scotsman stumbled, he struck a vicious rising shot which arrowed into the net.
Boro responded with a barrage of corners around the hour but were clearly rattled, which showed in foolish bookings for Festa, when he inexplicably chased after the ball with his hand as if he were trying to catch a fly, and for Gascoigne, when he took an ugly slash at Olivier Dacourt's legs.
Yet the admonishment inspired Gascoigne to his most telling passage of play. One surge from the halfway line opened the way for Ricard to try to round Myhre; another was unfairly halted by Collins. Although the free-kick was perfectly positioned for Gascoigne, he hit it tamely.
But it was not gone for long. Gascoigne swerved one stunning ball over Marco Materazzi for Beck to run on to and shoot wide. Finally, he attempted an intricate free-kick, which sailed sadly high, leaving Robson watching in dismay as a seemingly untouchable two-goal lead was surrendered.
l The Montpellier president, Louis Nicollin, said yesterday their striker Ibrahim Bakayoko, of the Ivory Coast, could be joining England's Everton today.Reuse content