Football: Juninho's magic puts Boro back in business

Middlesbrough 2 Chesterfield 1 Middlesbrough win 2-1 on agg
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The Independent Online
SO INTENSE was the outbreak of samba fever on Teesside last night, Juninho's second coming as the Boro Boy from Brazil had to be delayed by 15 minutes. For those already inside the Riverside Stadium, and those queuing to get in, the wait was worthwhile.

On loan from Atletico Madrid with a view to a permanent return, Juninho did not quite pick up where he had left off for Middlesbrough; his last game for the club was the FA Cup final in 1997. Back on the Wembley trail, though, he made his presence felt with some touches of South American class as Middlesbrough progressed to the third round of the Worthington Cup.

He certainly did enough to impress Bryan Robson. "His fitness level looked good and his touch on the ball was excellent," the Middlesbrough manager said.

Robson was not the only one on Teesside with an anxious face as the 5pm deadline for Juninho's registration arrived without the official clearance required from the Spanish Football Association. Much to the relief of the entrepreneurs already setting out stalls piled high with Brazilian- yellow and Boro-red "Juninho 99" shirts on the main approach road to the Riverside, a 30-minute extension was granted and the fax arrived from Madrid with eight minutes to spare.

Whether Juninho 99 was of the same quality as Juninho 95-97 remained to be seen, of course. The 5ft 5in Sao Pauloan certainly looked different, wearing the Boro No 23 shirt instead of the No 10 now borne by Brian Deane. But, as one main stand regular remarked with less than 10 minutes on the clock: "He's done more already than Paul Gascoigne has all season."

Playing a roving role behind Middlesbrough's two main strikers, Alun Armstrong and Hamilton Ricard, Juninho was instrumental in the move which broke the deadlock after 25 minutes. Linking with Robbie Mustoe in central midfield, he helped to work the ball to Paul Ince on the right edge of the Chesterfield penalty area and the Middlesbrough captain scooped a first-time shot into the top corner.

The cheers were loud enough but they were positively deafening a minute later - the moment Juninho announced he was truly back. Collecting the ball deep in midfield, he eluded what seemed like half the Chesterfield team with a mesmerising diagonal run before chipping inches wide of the right-hand post.

Not that it was all Juninho and Middlesbrough. Chesterfield, beaten by Boro and their Brazilian in the FA Cup semi-finals three seasons ago, threatened long before the 85th minute move that culminated with their captain, David Reeves, tapping in the equaliser from close range.

With two minutes remaining Middlesbrough secured their passage - courtesy of Juninho, whose curling free-kick from the left was parried by Gayle, for Steve Vickers to score.

Middlesbrough (3-4-1-2): Schwarzer; Gavin (Stockdale, 80), Pallister (Vickers, h-t), Cooper; Fleming, Ince, Mustoe, Ziege; Juninho; A Armstrong, Ricard (Campbell, 90). Substitutes: Berisford (gk), Maddison.

Chesterfield (3-5-2): Gayle; Blatherwick, Breckin, Beaumont; Woods, Lomas, Carss (Willis, 77), Hewitt, Simpkins (Holland, 77); Reeves, Bettney (Howard, 63). Substitutes: Payne, J Armstrong.

Referee: B Burns (Scarborough).