Sporting Lisbon 1 - Middlesbrough 0 (Sporting win 4-2 on aggregate)

Barbosa strikes to bring end to Boro's European adventure
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The Independent Online

Middlesbrough made a predictable, if disappointing, exit from the Uefa Cup here last night, having failed to rescue their last-16 tie from the 3-2 first-leg deficit they incurred last week at the Riverside.

Middlesbrough made a predictable, if disappointing, exit from the Uefa Cup here last night, having failed to rescue their last-16 tie from the 3-2 first-leg deficit they incurred last week at the Riverside.

A classic strike from Pedro Barbosa in the final minute confirmed what Steve McClaren's side must have feared all along, but at least Boro battled to the very end.

McClaren , who was missing nine players through injury, will know that his side had the chances to have stolen into the quarter-finals. "What a magnificent performance by the players," McClaren reflected afterwards. "We had three great chances to get the first vital goal, but you can't fault the players.

"We've had a great run which has come to an end but we've got a little taste for it and we want more again next year."

The midfielder Boudewijn Zenden acknowledged that Middlesbrough were beaten by a better side, saying: "We came up against an opponent who played better football than we did."

With so many players unfit, McClaren paired Joseph-Desire Job and Szilard Nemeth up front. That combination, though it misfired at times, went close to producing a miraculous result.

Boro needed to make a fast start to the game, and they almost did just that after 90 seconds when Stewart Downing was released down the left wing, with his eventual cross just evading the head of Job.

Four minutes later, Sporting had penalty appeals waved away by the French referee, Eric Poulat, following Doriva's challenge on Liedson, with television replays confirming that the Brazilian took a dive.

Boro's first opportunity to break the deadlock came with Job chasing down a loose ball and winning it ahead of Ricardo, who had sprinted off his line to challenge the Cameroon striker. With the goalkeeper attempting to make up lost ground, Job played in Nemeth who drove in an 18-yard shot ­ but the back-tracking defender Rui Jorge hacked clear off the line.

In the final minute of the half, however, Boro came close to scoring the goal which might have turned the game. Ricardo dropped a cross by Downing from the byline, but redeemed himself with a stunning save to deny Stuart Parnaby as he drove in a goalbound shot.

Early in the second half Middlesbrough missed a golden chance to take the lead when Ricardo carelessly cleared straight to Nemeth. But Job missed an open goal, slicing Nemeth's cross to the left from the edge of the six-yard box.

That was unfortunate since Job had, otherwise, played impressively. His strike partner, Nemeth, often looked to be a weak link, but Boro's ambition was stifled by Sporting insistence on playing possession football without taking any risks.

Boro pressed without creating any more clear-cut chances before Sporting wrapped up the tie in the 90th minute with a high-quality goal. Douala skipped down the left and pulled the ball back for Barbosa to drill a swinging drive into the Boro net. Even then, McClaren's side tried to find a way back. But there was none.

Sporting Lisbon (4-4-2): Ricardo; Rogerio, Enakahire, Hugo (Douala, 35), Jorge; Beto, Viana, Moutinho, Barbosa (Martins, 90); Sa Pinto, Liedson (Niculae, 88). Substitutes not used: Nelson (gk), Tello, Garcia.

Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Schwarzer; McMahon (Graham, 68), Riggott, Southgate, Queudrue; Parnaby, Zenden, Doriva (Johnson, 79), Downing (Wheater, 90); Job, Nemeth. Substitutes not used: Jones (gk), Cooper, Taylor, Kennedy.

Referee: E Poulat (France).

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