Emerson unravels route for Ravanelli

Middlesbrough 4 Coventry City 0
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The Independent Online
Fabrizio Ravanelli's fifth and sixth goals in five matches may appear the key to Middlesbrough's demolition of Coventry, but it was really a matter of midfield.

In Emerson, Bryan Robson has arguably the most complete player in his position in the country. The Brazilian was at the heart of Middlesbrough's rampaging attacks, using his awesome strength to break Coventry down and then his pace to surge forward. His passing was perceptive and he tackled back - a harsh challenge on John Salako earned him a first-half booking.

Alongside was Juninho, playing what his manager called "his best game of the season". Barely needing a touch to control the ball, he taunted Coventry's battered defenders, daring them to come and get it from him. They rarely could.

Last season, Juninho's weakness was his wayward finishing. On Saturday he scored twice: the first a precise pass from 15 yards; the second a composed tap-in having baffled Steve Ogrizovic with a couple of samba- style shimmies.

Robbie Mustoe is the unknown in a glittering midfield. A 28-year-old from Oxford, Saturday was his 185th League game for Middlesbrough. He is anonymous because of his efficiency, quietly winning tackles and quickly distributing the ball.

While Salako sparkled down the left, Coventry only showed cohesion when Gordon Strachan replaced a disappointing Eion Jess on the hour.

Up front, Noel Whelan had a goal disallowed for offside but neither he nor Dion Dublin looked likely to produce anything else to beat Alan Miller, and this against a defence which will be undone by potent strike forces.

So pity Coventry's poor back three. Emerson, armed by Mustoe and egged on by Barmby, continually pulled them apart - and Ravanelli and Juninho made them pay.

Goals: Ravanelli (3) 1-0; Juninho (28) 2-0; Ravanelli (73) 3-0; Juninho (80) 4-0.

Middlesbrough (5-3-2): Miller; Cox, Whyte, Vickers, P Whelan, Fleming; Emerson, Mustoe, Juninho; Barmby, Ravanelli. Substitues not used: Moore, Hendrie, Stamp, Branco, Roberts (gk).

Coventry City (3-1-4-2): Ogrizovic; Shaw, Burrows, Williams; Borrows; Telfer, Jess (Strachan, 60), McAllister, Salako; N Whelan (Ducros, 71), Dublin. Substitutes not used: Hall, Richardson, Filan (gk).

Referee: G Barber (Warwick).

Bookings: Middlesbrough: Whyte, Emerson, Ravanelli. Coventry: Jess, Whelan.

Man of the match: Juninho.

Attendance: 29,811.

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