Middlesbrough 0 Manchester City 0: Europe has a faraway look for off-key Boro

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The Independent Online

Middlesbrough should start to face up the fact that they will have to carry their fine European form right through to the final of the Uefa Cup and then win the trophy if they are to enjoy another taste of continental competition next season.

After failing to impress again in this draw Boro have won only two of their past 10 Premiership matches and now find themselves a dozen points shy of the clubs holding the tickets to Europe through the League.

Against a City side who have won only one of their past eight League games, a draw was probably inevitable. If there was any consolation for Steve McClaren, Middlesbrough's manager, it was that his side kept their first clean sheet since August. For that they had to thank Mark Schwarzer, who made a superb save from Joey Barton late in the game.

McClaren is not worried about his side loitering too close to the relegation zone. "It is where you finish, not where you are now, that counts," he said. "We're having a sticky patch but we will grind our way through it. I am not too concerned."

Middlesbrough started well enough, but when Barton raced down the field and tried to pick out Andy Cole at the back post, only for Chris Riggott to make the interception, it signalled that City were starting to dictate the game. They were hampered by the loss of Antoine Sibierski at half-time with hamstring trouble.

Sloppy play by Barton almost cost City dear in the 49th minute, and Doriva raised Boro's hopes again in the 66th minute when he found space 25 yards out but shot too high. City then broke quickly and Schwarzer did well to save Cole's effort after a cross from Nedum Onuoha.

Schwarzer made another stunning save in the 75th minute to prevent City from taking the lead. He got down smartly to turn a glancing header from Barton around the post and equality was maintained.

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