Boro in need of serious match practice

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The Independent Online

This was hardly a typical testimonial. After 10 minutes at the Riverside Stadium, there had been a mass brawl and three players had been booked, while before half-time Keith O'Neill and Evanilson were wrestling with each other. Well, this was England v Germany, after a fashion.

This was hardly a typical testimonial. After 10 minutes at the Riverside Stadium, there had been a mass brawl and three players had been booked, while before half-time Keith O'Neill and Evanilson were wrestling with each other. Well, this was England v Germany, after a fashion.

Against Dortmund, a side which got through three coaches last season and which has spent the summer painfully rebuilding under their latest coach Matthias Sammer, the hero of their European Cup triumph in 1997, Middlesbrough were a mess.

The goal which sealed Dortmund's win summed everything up as Jason Gavin headed Sunday Oliseh's innocuous cross past his goalkeeper for his second own-goal in pre-season. There was no pressure on the Irishman, although, if Middlesbrough play like this at Coventry on 19 August, there might well be some on manager Bryan Robson.

Jack Charlton once resigned as manager of Newcastle after a pre-season friendly but, before Teesside reaches for the razor blades, it should be pointed out that the team that took the field for Robbie Mustoe's testimonial was without three of Boro's summer signings, while four regulars who did play were having their first game.

Christian Karembeu and Noel Whelan sat things out while Alen Boksic is back in Rome waiting for a work permit. Christian Ziege, the one German most people at the Riverside are really interested in, was absent. Having offered a reported £2.5m salary to keep the wing-back on Teesside, Boro have issued an injunction to prevent Liverpool conducting further negotiations with a player who remains their most valuable asset.

Joseph-Désiré Job, a £2m signing from Lens, did play and presented one of the few threats to Jens Lehmann's goal. The Cameroon international has considerable pace and trickery, but it remains to be seen whether he has the killer instinct in front of goal. For Lens, he scored eight times in 32 games last season.

Since their pre-season had consisted of matches against York City, Durham City and Scarborough, from which even the most talented gypsy might have struggled to read the runes, Middlesbrough needed a solid display against serious opposition. Robson, though, would have been concerned at the way that his central defence was sometimes split apart and, when the opening goal came, it was no real surprise.

Sead Kapetanovic had already squandered one glaring opportunity when Victor Ikpeba stooped to head in a far-post corner after half an hour. Curtis Fleming, who might have been expected to mark him, put his head in his hands, although he could claim to have been distracted by German fans performing a conga near him.

The two-dozen or so Borussia supporters were the most memorable aspect of the day, regaling nobody in particular with Teutonic renditions of Hey Jude, Sailing and, with the 2006 World Cup in mind, Football's Coming Home.

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