Shearer leaves Middlesbrough sore

Middlesbrough 2 - Newcastle United 2
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Despite being ravaged by conjunctivitis, Newcastle left the Riverside having given one in the eye to their neighbours, who required a last-minute equaliser from Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink to salvage some regional pride.

Despite being ravaged by conjunctivitis, Newcastle left the Riverside having given one in the eye to their neighbours, who required a last-minute equaliser from Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink to salvage some regional pride.

Indeed, Middlesbrough tried to rub salt into Newcastle's affliction by playing "Bright Eyes" immediately before kick-off as Newcastle had changed in their cars all week and have showered at home to beat the infection. They would have beaten Boro too were it not for Hasselbaink's header, inches out and inches off the ground, in the 90th minute.

This was a derby that pitted more than two local teams against one another. The 43-year-old future England manager took on the 71-year-old former England manager; the anticipation surrounding Middlesbrough's four new signings took on the weight of expectation heaped on Newcastle's new names (although Patrick Kluivert was shielded from some of it on the bench).

Newcastle were so short of central defenders that they played Aaron Hughes alongside Robbie Elliott. Hughes' first-team chances had apparently been reduced by the late signing of Stephen Carr from Tottenham, whereas Elliott must have been convinced his chances were over a year ago when he was placed on the transfer list. He was now pitched against Hasselbaink, although Boro's other new striker Mark Viduka was suspended.

Yet in the 14th minute, after Ray Parlour had been booked within 11 minutes of his debut, Hughes intercepted and strode out of defence. His calm pass should have been cut out but Gareth Southgate's deputy, Chris Riggott - who had endured an intimidating welcome to the season from Alan Shearer - unaccountably allowed the ball to dribble under his studs, and Craig Bellamy was in. Bellamy took his time, rounded Mark Schwarzer and rolled the ball into the unguarded net.

It was the only significant moment in a first half in which Middlesbrough had not been picture-book pretty. Whereas Nicky Butt volleyed just wide and Shearer bravely threw himself at a header, Middlesbrough preferred to turn slowly inside in a needless search for additional space.

In the second half, with the heat of the evening fading, Middlesbrough turned up the temperature of their attacks with Szilard Nemeth coming on for extra zip followed by the speedy winger Stewart Downing.

Downing immediately extended Shay Given and, seven minutes after his arrival, equalised when Hughes failed to intercept Hasselbaink's precise cross.

Yet, despite Gaizka Mendieta late display - a cute lob and a clever nutmeg - Newcastle did not deserve to lose. In James Milner, they had a sparkling outlet and in Butt they an imperturbable and unbeatable rock.

Plus, of course, they had Shearer. It was his lay-off seven minutes from time that Shola Ameobi burst on to. The substitute, on ahead of Kluivert, was clipped by Boudewijn Zenden, and Shearer buried the penalty that would have decided the game had Hasselbaink not equalised in the dying moments.

Comments