Boro make progress despite limp capitulation

Villarreal 2 - Middlesbrough 0
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The Independent Online

Middlesbrough's 100 per cent record in the Uefa Cup was ended with a 2-0 defeat by mid- table La Liga side Villarreal last night, but Steve McClaren's side still advance to the last 32 of the competition as group rivals Lazio were unable to beat Partizan Belgrade in Rome.

Middlesbrough's 100 per cent record in the Uefa Cup was ended with a 2-0 defeat by mid- table La Liga side Villarreal last night, but Steve McClaren's side still advance to the last 32 of the competition as group rivals Lazio were unable to beat Partizan Belgrade in Rome.

Although seldom compared, both Middlesbrough and Villarreal have prospered in the last decade through wealthy owners. Villarreal began the 1990s in the Spanish equivalent of the Conference - which was normal for a town of just 42,000.

Then ceramics boss Fernando Roig became president and lavished his fortunes on footballers' salaries. Like a Spanish Middlesbrough, Villarreal specialise in enticing fading stars to the north of Valencia to hopefully re- start their career. The policy works, for Villarreal are established in Spain's top flight and reached the semi-finals of last year's Uefa Cup.

Middlesbrough, needing a point to guarantee their passage to the final 32 knock-out stage of the competition, started without Marj Viduka and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. Backed by a vociferous 3,000 following, Boro's best first half chance came when Stewart Downing struck a tame shot at former Barcelona goalkeeper Reina in the 19th minute.

But Villarreal went ahead when Riquelme, emerging as their main threat, thread a pass which gave Guayre the space to strike past Schwarzer into the top corner on 37 minutes. It was the first goal Boro have conceded in their brief European history.

Hasselbaink and Viduka were introduced after half-time, their significant presence initially notable as Middlesbrough pressed for an equaliser. Viduka hit a powerful shot wide of Reina's post, but the home side enjoyed the majority of possession and always looked likely to add a second. Riggot did see a scrambled effort disallowed for offside in the 68th minute, but Villarreal put the game beyond Middlesbrough when defender Rodriquez Javi Venta combined perfectly with Riquelme on the edge of the box before crashing the ball past Schwarzer in the 75th minute. According to one Middlesbrough flag: "Every smog has a silver lining." Defeat had one tonight.

Villarreal (4-2-3-1): Reina; J Venta, Gonzalo, Alvarez, Arruabarrena; Josico, Arzo; Font, Riquelme, Cazorla; Guayre. Substitutes not used: Vallejo (gk), Armando, Pena, Marcos, Jonathan, Xisco.

Middlesbrough (4-5-1): Schwarzer; McMahon, Riggott, Southgate, Queudrue; Boateng, Zenden, Doriva (Hasselbaink 45), Downing, Nemeth; Job (Viduka 45). Substitutes not used: Nash (gk), Cooper, Reiziger, Parlour, Morrison.

Referee: Jan Wegereef (Netherlands)

¿ Second-half goals by Paolo di Canio and Simone Inzaghi helped Lazio claw their way back after being 2-0 down to Partizan Belgrade at the interval. Pierre Boya scored both goals for the visitors, the first onlysix minutes after the kick-off. But the result still left the Italian side trailing in fourth place in Group E.

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