Football: Juninho and Ziege combine to batter Everton

Middlesbrough 2 Everton 1; Boro men win their duel with the gymnastic Gerrard
MIDFIELD MAGIC by Middlesbrough broke the spell that Paul Gerrard cast around the Everton goal, but not even the sorcery of Juninho and his very able apprentice Christian Ziege could lift the curse that bewitches Hamilton Ricard.

In the run-up to last Christmas, the Colombian topped the Premiership goalscoring chart. This season, having complained of tiredness after three continuous years of football, he has failed to score in 12 matches. And on Saturday he dillied and dallied in front of goal, allowing shooting opportunities to evaporate.

"As long as Hamilton keeps working, the chances will soon go in for him," said his manager Bryan Robson. "In the last two home games, because he's been threatening and running through defences, two players have been sent off."

David Weir was Saturday's victim and even his manager Walter Smith had few complaints - possibly because by then Everton had squandered a fourth- minute advantage and were fortunate not to have conceded their customary four. That they had not was due to Ricard's jinx and Gerrard's brilliance. The goalkeeper, standing in for the injured Thomas Myhre and keeping out Steve Simonsen, made a series of superb single-handed saves to deny Ziege, Paul Ince and Brian Deane.

The chances were created by Middlesbrough's midfield mastery. Juninho is not quite at his best, but he still mesmerised Everton. Ince was anonymous yet effective, breaking down and tidying up. It was Ziege, though, who stood out with his powerful running and vicious left foot. His 10th-minute free-kick pulled the home team level and then he engaged in a personal duel with Gerrard, embarrassing the goalkeeper with a series of wicked corners and finally sending in a screaming drive.

Everton's goal was little more than a collection of calamities, but, even though Gerrard's goal led a charmed life, Middlesbrough's three- card trick in midfield conjured up more than enough to see off Everton.

Goals: Campbell (4) 0-1); Ziege (15) 1-1; Deane (61) 2-1.

Middlesbrough (5-3-2): Schwarzer; Stamp, Fleming, Pallister, Vickers, O'Neill; Juninho, Ince, Ziege, Deane, Ricard. Substitutes not used: Beresford (gk), Maddison, Armstrong, Summerbell, Gavin.

Everton: (4-4-2): Gerrard; Dunne, Gough, Weir, Ball (Cadamarteri, 73); Barmby (Johnson, 80), Collins, Pembridge, Unsworth; Hutchison, Campbell. Substitutes not used: Simonsen (gk), Cleland, Ward.

Referee: A D'Urso (Billericay).

Bookings: Middlesbrough: Pallister. Everton: Unsworth, Collins, Pembridge. Sending off: Everton: Weir.

Man of the match: Gerrard.

Attendance: 33,916.