Festa fiesta as Ravanelli sees red

Middlesbrough 4 Ravanelli pen 14, Festa 23, Emerson pen 72, Juninho 90 Sheffield Wednesday 2 Pembridge 29, 80 Attendance: 29,485
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The Independent Online
FOR a week, the blanket of mist hanging over Teesside had become heavier by the day. Mutinous mutterings in the foreign ranks grew louder and the Football Association deducted three points for Middlesbrough's failure to show at Blackburn.

Yesterday, spring-like sunshine broke through, warming the darkest corners of the Riverside Stadium and another sell-out crowd welcomed their latest import, pounds 2.7m Gianluca Festa.

And, for much of the game, Boro had a spring in their step. Fabrizio Ravanelli rolled up his white flag, and scored a penalty before being sent off for protesting - to the referee, not the Italian papers - too much. Festa, who has gone from warming the Inter bench to trying to plug Boro's leaky defence, scrambled a goal 22 minutes into his debut. What is more, the side who last week had just one shot against Southampton created many chances before Emerson clinched the game with another penalty in the 71st minute.

Boro must have felt the weather changing in the 13th minute. In the same penalty area where last week Clayton Blackmore had been sent off for handball, Dejan Stefanovic rose to divert Ravanelli's left-wing cross from Mikkel Beck's head. The Serb received only a yellow card but, so keen was Ravanelli to celebrate his successful spot kick that he fell over himself and forgot his trademark shirt-over-the-head gesture.

Within 10 minutes Boro were two up. Juninho's swinging corner was flicked on at the near post by Beck and Festa on the far stooped to score. There should have been more. In the 27th minute, Emerson ploughed through midfield, Juninho slipped through Wednesday's defence and, as he was bundled over, the ball fell to Beck. A third looked certain, but credit Kevin Pressman for the save.

And credit his team for never giving up. Their reward came when Festa mis-timed a challenge in the centre circle, Humphreys rushed forward before sliding the ball sideways for Pembridge to score.

After the break, Boro pressed for victory. The temperature rose in the 55th minute when Emerson's drive from 25 yards burnt Pressman's fingers. And it reached boiling point on 69 minutes. Ravanelli's goal was ruled out for offside and he was cautioned for his remonstrating. A minute later, another offside decision went against him and Ravanelli saw red. Barely down the tunnel, Ravanelli must have been angrier still when Pressman tripped Alan Moore and Emerson scored from the spot.

When Pembridge tapped home Regi Blinker's cross in the 79th minute the Owls had a hope of continuing their 13- game unbeaten run but, in a frantic finale, Juninho produced a last-minute twist to score a delightful goal.

The Teeside fog has lifted a little, but Boro are still bottom. One win does not make a spring.