Middlesbrough 3 Dnipro 0

Viduka strikes as fans stay away
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The Independent Football

Another embarrassing attendance showed supporters cannot even be bothered to be apathetic about the Uefa Cup, and up until the first of his two goals shortly after half-time, it appeared Viduka was treating it with similar contempt.

But he is long enough in the tooth to realise that forwards are forgiven most things in return for goals. So his glaring anonymity prior to scoring twice in five minutes was not an issue among the 12,953 hardy souls in attendance to see their team top Group D and edge within a point of progressing to the last 32.

Viduka said: "We forced the tie in the second half, and it was nice to get on the score-sheet. It was good to be playing, especially after I missed out in the last game. We've got a fantastic record in Europe, and hopefully we can continue that." He has accumulated only one less start in Europe this season than in a stuttering Premiership campaign. But this impressive exhibition of finishing will boost his attempts to avoid frustrating nocturnal cameos and persuade Steve McClaren to play him under something other than floodlights this winter.

McClaren believes his side are benefiting from the switch to a 3-5-2 formation, and he said: "It was a professional performance, and puts us in the driving seat in the group. Three at the back gives us a solid base to play from. It's been levelled at us that we're defensive, but we're the second highest scorers in the Premiership and we've got another three goals tonight so that's a bit unfair."

Aiyegbeni Yakubu's seventh goal of the season nine minutes before the interval broke the tedium.Gaizka Mendieta's slick, slide-rule return pass found Yakubu advancing into the area, from where the Nigerian beat Artem Kusliy at the near post from 12 yards.

Viduka finally got his act together to double the lead on 51 minutes. Mendieta made progress down the left and the ball found Viduka 25 yards out, allowing him to turn his marker Serhiy Nazarenko and unleash a powerful drive into the top corner. Viduka put the contest beyond doubt five minutes later, side-footing home from inside the box after a James Morrison drive had been parried invitingly into his path.

Only a post denied Viduka an eight-minute hat-trick, before he was withdrawn to conserve energy for Australia's forthcoming World Cup play-off with Uruguay, and the possibility of a rare League start at Everton on Sunday.

Middlesbrough (3-5-2): Schwarzer; Bates, Riggott, Queudrue; Parnaby, Morrison, Mendieta (Kennedy, 60), Doriva, Pogatetz; Viduka (Nemeth, 64), Yakubu (Maccarone, 56). Substitutes not used: Jones (gk), Boateng, Hasselbaink, Johnson.

Dnipro (1-4-4-1): Kusliy; Nazarenko; Semochko, Yezerskiy, Rusol (Lysytskiy, 58), Radchenko; Shershun, Mykhaylenko (Motuz, 66), Shelayev, Rykun; Kostyshyn (Melashchenko, 52). Substitutes not used: Kernozenko, Kornilenko, Bidnenko, Kravchenko.

Referee: B Layec (France).

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