Boateng pounces to hand Middlesbrough late lifeline

Middlesbrough 1 - Bolton Wanderers 1
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The Independent Football

Thursday night's Uefa Cup win against Lazio will linger long in the memory of Middlesbrough fans. Yesterday's scrambled point against Bolton Wanderers, however, will have been long forgotten by everyone at the Riverside by next week.

Thursday night's Uefa Cup win against Lazio will linger long in the memory of Middlesbrough fans. Yesterday's scrambled point against Bolton Wanderers, however, will have been long forgotten by everyone at the Riverside by next week.

A dreary game was enlivened only by an unexpectedly frantic finale that saw two goals as well as a red card. Henrik Pedersen redirected Bruno N'Gotty's header to give his side the lead with 18 minutes remaining and it looked as though Bolton would move a place higher in the Premiership to third.

Then, in the closing stages, Jussi Jaaskelainen, the Bolton goalkeeper, was sent off for tripping Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. Luckily for the visitors, Peter Walton, the referee, incorrectly ruled the initial contact to have taken place just outside the area.

The Dutchman blasted the free-kick into the stand but as the game moved into injury-time and 10-man Bolton's defending became desperate, George Boateng reacted quickest as substitute goalkeeper Kevin Poole parried Ray Parlour's drive, to salvage a point for Boro.

"We've thrown it away today," said Sam Allardyce, the Bolton manager. "We tried to play Hasselbaink offside when there was no need and that led to the sending-off. We'd broken their back by that stage and they were resorting to long balls so I'm pretty sure we'd have gone on to win the game."

As long as Bolton continue to play in this fashion they will win more points than friends. Robust, direct and pragmatic, they travelled to Teesside without their captain, Jay-Jay Okocha, and accordingly played with little more than containment in mind for most of the afternoon. Gary Speed and Fernando Hierro, making his full debut, largely achieved that aim during a forgettable opening period.

Little surprise then when Steve McClaren, the Boro manager, introduced Mark Viduka for Joseph-Desiré Job after half-time. The Australian soon headed Franck Queudrue's cross against the post and went close again when he headed Parlour's cross into the side-netting.

It was Bolton, though, who took the lead. El Hadji Diouf was an irritant to the home crowd for his time-wasting and willingness to go to ground, but he was also a persistent threat on the left. He swung in the corner; N'Gotty and Pedersen did the rest.

Hasselbaink came close twice in a couple of minutes as Middlesbrough chased the equaliser. First his free-kick flashed wide and then he met a Parlour cross only to send his shot fractionally beyond the other post. He, more than anyone, had reason to be grateful for Boateng's late intervention.

"It would have been a travesty if we had lost that match," said McClaren, whose side have now gone nine games without defeat. "Bolton are very hard to play against and they're effective at what they do. But we stuck with it and stayed patient and that tells me we're already learning from the experience of playing in Europe."

Goals: Pedersen (72) 0-1; Boateng (90) 1-1.

Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Schwarzer; McMahon (Morrison, 80), Riggott, Southgate, Queudrue; Parlour, Boateng, Zenden, Downing; Hasselbaink, Job (Viduka, h-t). Substitutes not used: Nash (gk), Doriva, Cooper.

Bolton Wanderers (4-1-4-1): Jaaskelainen; Hunt (Ben Haim, 55), Jaidi, N'Gotty, Gardner; Hierro; Giannakopoulos (Pedersen, 63), Nolan, Speed, Diouf (Poole, 87); Davies. Substitutes not used: Cesar, Ferdinand.

Referee: P Walton (Northamptonshire).

Booked: Middlesbrough: Queudrue. Bolton: Hunt, Davies, Diouf. Sent off: Bolton: Jaaskelainen (86).

Man of the match: Speed.

Attendance: 29,656.

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