When David Moyes' side won last season's corresponding fixture by the same score, they swept into third place. This time they were grateful for a third match without defeat. Moreover, three points would have become one if Frank Queudrue's last-minute header had gone under the bar rather than shaking it following Gaizka Mendieta's corner.
Moyes hailed "a big win" for last season's Champions' League qualifiers. "We've lost a few games 1-0 when we've probably played better than that," he admitted. "We've been trying to get a run going. In the short term we've done well. Now we need to make it a long-term thing."
Steve McClaren, the Middlesbrough manager, neatly encapsulated the contest.
"We conceded from a corner and never looked like letting in another goal," he said. "We controlled the game, but in the final third we didn't show the quality that would have opened them up."
Only 11 days earlier, Middlesbrough had won 1-0 at Everton in the Carling Cup. Territorially, they were dominant enough to repeat the feat, yet they seldom turned possession into penetration. Back-to-back League successes have eluded them for nearly a year.
In Everton's previous home match, the 1-1 draw with Chelsea, they established a high tempo. Early on, however, Mendieta and Fabio Rochemback saw more of the ball than Moyes would have wished.
Everton soon conjured a fourth goal in 11 games. A short-corner between Andy van der Meyde and Phil Neville led to Beattie, who might have been challenged, beating George Boateng to head his first goal from open play this season.
Mikel Arteta was the one Everton player with the ability and the confidence to try something out of the ordinary. One minute he was audaciously weaving his way out from the back, the next using skill to create space to cross. More typically, though, Everton massed in deep defence, as if defying Middlesbrough to find a way through. David Weir and Joseph Yobo policed the strikers efficiently.
Everton made a second opportunity with 10 minutes left. Two substitutes, Marcus Bent and James McFadden, set up Beattie, but from six yards he twanged the bar. When Queudrue did likewise at the last, Middlesbrough knew it was not their day.
Goal: Beattie (16) 1-0.
Everton (4-4-2): Martyn; Hibbert, Weir, Yobo, Neville; Arteta, Davies (Kilbane, 55), Cahill, van der Meyde (McFadden, 68); Beattie, Ferguson (Bent, 75). Substitutes not used: Wright (gk), Kroldrup.
Middlesbrough (3-5-2): Schwarzer; Ehiogu (Doriva, 80), Riggott, Queudrue; Parnaby, Mendieta, Boateng, Rochemback (Morrison, 75), Pogatetz; Yakubu (Viduka, 54), Hasselbaink. Substitutes not used: Jones (gk), Bates.
Referee: M Riley (West Yorkshire).
Booked: Everton Neville, Van der Meyde. Middlesbrough Rochemback.
Man of the match: Weir.
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