Football: Rampant Boro take first blood

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The Independent Online
Leicester City 1 Middlesbrough 3

Middlesbrough must have been delighted with Saturday's dress rehearsal for their Coca-Cola Cup final against Leicester, coming as it did before a fortnight which is crucial to their Premiership survival plans.

Boro now have three home matches in six days - against Blackburn, fellow strugglers Nottingham Forest, and Chelsea - and their appeal against the Premier League's deduction of three points for failing to fulfil their fixture at Blackburn on 21 December is due to be heard a week on Thursday.

However, illness and injuries - the reasons cited for refusing to play at Ewood Park - have again become a worry. The defender Gianluca Festa missed the 3-1 victory at Filbert Street after going down with a virus. Fabrizio Ravanelli, Emerson and Nigel Pearson were all sick in the dressing- room before kick-off and again at half time.

"Even our kit man has the bug, and we are just hoping it is a 24-hour thing," Bryan Robson, the Boro manager, said: "Emerson is struggling with an ankle problem as well, and I have seven other players injured.

"But we've been playing very well since the turn of the year, and it is nice to see other teams slipping back towards us. The next three home games come in a very congested period, but if we keep working hard we've got the chance to make the most of them and start climbing out of trouble."

Clayton Blackmore opened the scoring with an impressive 25-yard strike after just eight minutes. Ian Marshall's 47th-minute consolation goal made partial amends for a hat-trick of missed opportunities in the first half, but Leicester seemed tired and unable to deal with the influential Juninho, who scored one, missed two other chances just as easy and made the third for Mikkel Beck, before Simon Grayson closed him down in the second half.

Goals: Blackmore (9) 0-1; Juninho (27) 0-2; Beck (36) 0-3; Marshall (47) 1-3.

Leicester City: Poole; Grayson, Guppy, Watts, Elliott, Prior, Izzet, Lennon, Parker, Claridge (Robins, 81), Marshall. Substitutes not used: Lawrence, Taylor, Rolling, Campbell (gk).

Middlesbrough: Schwarzer; Cox, Vickers, Pearson, Emerson (Moore, 90), Beck, Juninho, Ravanelli, Fleming, Blackmore, Hignett. Substitutes not used: Liddle, Summerbell, Ormerod, Roberts (gk).

Referee: S Lodge (Barnsley).

Booking: Middlesbrough Cox.

Man of the match: Juninho.

Attendance: 20,561.