There have been many times in the dark days of Manchester City's past decade when the the words "it's just like watching Brazil" have rung out from the stands in acknowledgement that the fans of this club can laugh at their belief that they have been placed on this earth to suffer. But yesterday the irony could be dispensed with when the song struck up, a little over an hour into an easy victory.
Elano, the Brazilian midfielder who joined Sven Goran Eriksson's league of nations in August, is described as one of his country's new breed; a modest, no frills player. But he demonstrated with two sweet right-foot strikes strikes yesterday – each from around the 25-yard range – that he does not do ordinary goals.
The second, from a free-kick conceded by a Middlesbrough defence which was agricultural most of the afternoon, had echoes of the strike which did for Newcastle last weekend. The first suggested the Brazilian spirit is infecting Eriksson's Englishmen, as Michael Johnson backheeled audaciously for Elano to thump into the bottom right-hand corner.
Elano almost had a third on 70 minutes and three minutes later there was evidence of his ability of deliver for others. Stephen Ireland met his free-kick from close range but Mark Schwarzer smothered.
"We don't need to tell him how to play football," said Eriksson, with a grin, after the match. "You can't ask for much more."
In his programme notes, Erikson had cautioned the faithful against expecting a repeat of the Newcastle game. It was "impossible to repeat", he wrote. And yet, inside nine minutes, the same City XI were ahead again. It was a messy goal – more evidence of the frailty defending corners which Boro showed against Everton last week – with Martin Petrov's delivery spinning in off Chris Riggot's right shin.
What followed that was the most convincing affirmation yet of what Erikson's means for City: a display of fast, counter-attacking football which proved that a team can flourish with a solitary striker. Elano teed up Johnson, Ireland – as influential as the Brazilian – carved out a chance for Emile Mpenza and the full-back Vedran Corluka provided another dimension down the right. At times, it was samba stuff.
Middlesbrough's manager, Gareth Southgate, had such an depleted front line that he was forced to lead it with a 20-year-old, Tom Craddock, who was starting for the first time. There was so little creativity in the side that the captain, George Boateng, was replaced at half-time by Tuncay Sanliu, who finally provided some momentum.
His reverse pass provided Luke Young with a chance and Tuncay had two good openings of his own before his cross was poked in by another debutant, Ben Hutchinson, who was on for Craddock as Middlesbrough surged late on.
Eriksson told his players after the match that thay must defend better throughout the team, but he could find few grounds for complaint. His Brazilian midfielder might get "even better" he said, and there even seems to be more money on the way from the boardroom. "I will be bringing in a player or players," the Swede said. "That's what I've heard the people above me say, yes."
Goals: Riggott og (9) 1-0; Elano (32) 2-0; Elano (64) 3-0; Hutchinson (88) 3-1.
Manchester City (4-1-4-1): Hart; Garrido, Dunne, Richards, Corluka; Hamann; Johnson (Ball, 60), Elano (Geovanni, 79), Petrov, Ireland; Mpenza (Samaras, 75 ). Substitutes not used: K Schmeichel (gk), I Onuoha.
Middlesbrough (4-5-1): Schwarzer; Young, Riggott, Woodgate, Taylor; Boateng (Tuncay, 46), Rochemback, O'Neil, Cattermole, Downing; Craddock (Hutchinson, 59). Substitutes not used: Turnbull (gk), Shawky, Wheater.
Referee: S Bennett (Kent).
Booked: Manchester City Richards, Geovanni. Middlesbrough Woodgate, Young, O'Neil.
Man of the match: Elano
Attendance: 40,438.Reuse content