Middlesbrough 0 Seville 4: McClaren heads for England empty-handed after Boro rout

Click to follow
The Independent Online

You could say that it was the night that Steve McClaren's luck ran out. He has come through two implausibly dramatic comebacks in the previous two rounds, so good they alone may have won him the England manager's job, and then, with the succession to Sven Goran Eriksson secured, the spell was shattered by the heaviest defeat yet in a Uefa Cup final.

But there was more than a touch of bad luck about a defeat that will be the epitaph to McClaren's five years at Middlesbrough. They were skewered by football on the break by Seville and finished off by two late goals from players who the Premiership rejected. "A great night for Middlesbrough football club - its players, staff, fans and chairman," said McClaren, although he might be the only one on Teesside this morning who subscribes to that interpretation.

As with so much of McClaren's career, this was a difficult night to interpret - a match that slid from a one-goal defeat to a thrashing in 10 calamitous minutes at the end. It was somewhere between disaster and misfortune but no badge of honour to carry on to his next post at the Football Association - especially with the coup de grace delivered by Enzo Maresca and Frédéric Kanouté, two men deemed surplus to requirements at West Bromwich Albion and Tottenham respectively.

The other Seville goalscorer was the Brazilian Luis Fabiano - and it will be of no consolation to McClaren that he is not even good enough to get a regular place in their national team. The Spanish side took the lead in the 26th minute and - save for one glaring miss from Mark Viduka and a rejected penalty claim involving the Australian striker that McClaren described as a "stonewall penalty" - there was precious little to trouble them.

The Middlesbrough manager has gone into half-time a goal down once before in a European final and on that occasion he stood with Sir Alex Ferguson as the Manchester United manager gave a speech that precipitated one of the greatest comebacks of all time. McClaren threw on his Uefa Cup comeback kid, the Italian striker Massimo Maccarone, and when the match ended his team had shipped another three goals.

Suddenly England have a new manager who is not a man with one hand on the Uefa Cup but one whose team finished 14th in the Premiership this season and have nothing else to show for the campaign. He could have done with carrying this trophy into his new job if - for nothing else - to raise his credibility with the English football nation but beneath the smile and the bonhomie, McClaren is an altogether tougher and more durable character.

He bid farewell to Middlesbrough with a grin about the "roller-coaster" he had endured in the last two months and the assurance that the club is in better shape than he found it. Last night, however, you felt most keenly for the chairman Steve Gibson, whose name the Middlesbrough fans sang, and for whom this season marks 20 years since he rescued the club from its near-death experience at the hands of its creditors.

Last night there was never even the hint of a comeback against opposition far superior to the victims they found in Basle and Steaua Bucharest. They simply faded away against a team placed fifth in La Liga, for whom the best player was Maresca, an Italian midfielder whom West Brom fans remember with mixed feelings, and Daniel Alves, a Brazilian right-back who gave Stewart Downing a lesson he will not forget.

Eriksson was in the crowd to watch one of his young lions perform in a competition that the Swede won with Gothenburg in 1982. There was no way around Alves for Downing who beat him just the once. More crucially the young winger found himself badly out of position when Alves made Fabiano's first goal. It came from the right wing, Alves used the space and crossed an angled rising ball into Fabiano, who pulled away from Chris Riggott and directed a header inside Mark Schwarzer's far post. The one chance that fell to Middlesbrough in the 51st minute may haunt Mark Viduka. Fabio Rochemback's free-kick was headed down at the back post by Riggott and into the path of Viduka who, from seven yards, struck his shot at Andres Palop.

By the 70th minute, McClaren had sent on Yakubu and had all four of his strikers on the pitch and Viduka tumbled under a challenge from behind by Javi Navarro on 76 minutes - but no penalty was given. Seville's final push was brutal. Three minutes later, McClaren's side conceded possession after an aimless sequence of passes and Seville worked the ball out wide to Jesus Navas, spare on the right wing. He cut the ball back to Fabiano whose shot was brilliantly saved by Schwarzer before Maresca tucked home the rebound.

Within six minutes, Riggott had headed clear only for Maresca to swing a leg at the loose ball and send it straight back past Schwarzer. By now Middlesbrough were tumbling into dreadful disarray, a team unsure whether to go forward or back and Kanouté, a half-time substitute, completed the rout with a minute left.

There was no denying that by the end this was a humiliation of sorts, despite McClaren's preference to brush it off as an experience that will strengthen him. This was the end of a journey for Middlesbrough that began at home to Xanthi of Greece in September in front of 14,190 supporters and came to mean a lot more to a club that dared to believe it could win the Uefa Cup. There was not much honour in defeat for McClaren although he appears to stride on, no less convinced of his own ability.

Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Parnaby, Riggott, Southgate, Queudrue (Yakubu, 70); Morrison (Maccarone, h-t), Boateng, Rochemback, Downing; Viduka (Cattermole, 85), Hasselbaink. Substitutes not used: Jones (gk), Ehiogu, Parlour, Bates.

Seville (4-4-2): Palop; Daniel, Navarro, Escude, David; Navas, Marti, Maresca, Adriano (Puerta, 85); Saviola (Kanouté, h-t), Fabiano (Renato, 72). Substitutes not used: Notario (gk), Ocio, Sales, Kepa.

Referee: H Fandel (Germany).

Comments