Everton 0 Middlesbrough 1

Hasselbaink thunderbolt shatters Everton's fragile confidence
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The Independent Football

David Moyes' men may have belied their position at the bottom of the Premiership to hold the champions on Sunday but that was an occasion when, despite home advantage, they were never expected to take the game to their opponents. Against a Middlesbrough side struggling to meet their own pre-season expectations, however, they were, but Everton's consistent inability to bring creativity and composure to their performances has not been eradicated by one encouraging draw and now Moyes' task of cajoling his under-achievers out of their malaise must begin again.

"That's the story," he admitted, "We had hoped to start the game with a better tempo and we got the ball into good positions but we didn't get on the end of enough opportunities. We did up things in the second half, but once again we just couldn't find that elusive goal."

It is not goals but starts that Hasselbaink has been searching for this season, making no secret of his displeasure at being the fall guy in Steve McClaren's rotation system. He should be careful what he wishes for, however. At least at Middlesbrough he is provided with the opportunities to demonstrate that his predatory instincts remain as telling as ever.

"Maybe it was a soft goal but that's Jimmy for you," said McClaren; "He is always a threat. He gets all types of goals. He wasn't dropped on Saturday. He played 90 minutes against Grasshoppers last week [when he also scored] but took a knock to his ankle at the end. We never drop players. We rotate them to keep them fresh for Europe."

Europe remains a viable option this season for Middlesbrough, both in terms of their current Uefa Cup adventure and the route offered by the Carling Cup. For Everton, the thought of Europe has disappeared with greater speed then they ever could have imagined when they secured fourth place last season.

Moyes' side, orchestrated by Mikel Arteta, assumed the early ascendancy but could only produce half chancesbefore their performance descended into desperation. The 61st-minute introduction of Andy van der Meyde was the highlight until a six-year-old urchin invaded the pitch and attempted a slide tackle on Franck Queudrue with a few minutes remaining. In keeping with Everton's performance, he missed his target before running into the arms of a Goodison steward.

Everton (4-4-2): Martyn; Hibbert, Yobo, Weir, Ferrari (Bent, 41); Davies (Osman, 78), Arteta, Neville, Kilbane; Beattie, McFadden (Van der Meyde, 62). Substitutes not used: Wright (gk), Kroldrup.

Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Parnaby, Riggott, Ehiogu (Bates, 45), Queudrue; Morrison, Rochemback, Doriva, Pogatetz; Hasselbaink (Nemeth, 67), Viduka (Yakubu, 78). Substitutes not used: Jones (gk), Kennedy.

Referee: P Walton (Northamptonshire).