Football: Ravanelli arousing irritation

Middlesbrough 2 Charlton Athletic 1
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The Independent Online
As Bryan Robson begins the week trying to lure David Platt to the Riverside, the want-aways from the club received another push towards the exit - despite this fortuitous victory.

After spending the close season hawking his talents around Europe, Fabrizio Ravanelli was welcomed back with a physical punch-up involving his team- mates on Thursday and a cold chorus of boos from his supporters on Saturday.

Although he wore their red shirt, his heart clearly was not in it. It was not until five minutes after the break that he roused himself to first berate his team-mates for failing to read his delicate flick and then abuse a linesman who had the audacity to flag him offside.

Ravanelli's only other contributions were to miss an open goal from three yards - substitute Phil Stamp getting the blame for providing an inch- perfect rather than a millimetre-magnificent cross - and to score the last-minute winner. That the White Feather has not lost his golden touch is his only escape route.

Emerson, though, does not even have that. He started last season as the most complete midfielder in English football. Awesome strength, surging acceleration, delicate touch. All have deserted him now as he chases the shadows of the ordinary talents and ordinary names of the First Division - the Jones boys Keith and Steve, and John Robinson and Steve Brown gave him the run-around on Saturday.

Which leaves Paul Merson. Bought, in his own words, to play either up front or right midfield, he started on the left and struggled to connect with Mikkel Beck. The Dane was out of his depth in the Premiership and appeared only to tread water in the First Division. Whenever Merson found him, he dallied until the danger had gone. Only when he had departed, substituted in the 73rd minute, did Merson push forward and Middlesbrough overwhelm Charlton's ninth-minute lead.

Robson reckoned Saturday was a kick up the backside for his showboaters. "If they thought they were going to play nice, pretty football they got their answer in the first 45 minutes," he said. For Charlton, prompted by Clive Mendonca's wiles, could have been three ahead by the break.

While Robson tempts Platt with "a financial package" and pursues Oldham's left-back Carl Serrant, he will also have noticed Richard Rufus, who skilfully contained Ravanelli and Merson.

"I see all these big-name transfers and foreign signings but English talent like Richard should get recognition," his manager, Alan Curbishley, said. "He was a match for anyone. Outstanding. Not that I'm trying to sell him... "

Goals: S Jones (9) 0-1; Festa (80) 1-1; Ravanelli (90) 2-1.

Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Roberts; Fleming, Vickers, Festa, Kinder; Blackmore (Hignett, 30), Mustoe, Emerson, Merson; Beck (Stamp, 72), Ravanelli. Substitute not used: Liddle.

Charlton Athletic (4-4-2): Petterson; Brown, Rufus, Balmer, Barness; K Jones (Nicholls, 73), Newton, Kinsella, Robinson; Mendonca, S Jones (Bright, 75). Substitute not used: Kerslake.

Referee: T Leake (Darwen).

Bookings: Middlesbrough Emerson. Charlton S Jones, Brown.

Man of the match: Rufus.

Attendance: 29,414.