Viduka strikes twice to leave Birmingham fans singing the boos

Birmingham City 0 - Middlesbrough 3

The brooding Australian missed virtually all the second half of last season through injury but celebrated his recall at the expense of Gaizka Mendieta as Birmingham City's early problems intensified.

Steve Bruce found the temptation for change too great to resist, dropping Julian Gray, Jamie Clapham and Mikael Forssell to the bench following their part in the defeat at home to Manchester City.

As well as bringing Olivier Tebily in from the cold, he handed a debut to Jiri Jarosik, the Czech international signed on loan for the season via the path Bruce frequently treads to the door of the Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho.

Another new signing, Nicky Butt, showed the way with a glancing header from Stan Lazaridis' centre, Mark Schwarzer being forced into a diving save.

No sooner had Birmingham threatened, though, than they should have been behind. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink stole yards on his markers to reach Franck Queudrue's through ball but his powerful cross shot beat the far post by inches.

It was not a costly miss. Michael Reiziger's pass down the right was drilled hard and low across the area by James Morrison for Viduka to stick out a leg and deflect past Birmingham goalkeeper Maik Taylor.

Long-range shots by Tebily and Walter Pandiani were easily dealt with at the other end before Viduka sensationally added his and his side's second goal.

He controlled Queudrue's 45th-minute throw from the left, turned Kenny Cunningham and bludgeoned a superb swerving shot past the startled Taylor from a tight angle.

The St Andrew's crowd, having predictably booed their side off at the interval, had their spirits raised immediately after it by the introduction of Forssell and Muzzy Izzet for Stephen Clemence and Tebily.

In the resulting increase in tempo, Middlesbrough required two excellent interceptions by Gareth Southgate - the second one crucially preventing Butt from getting in a shot - to maintain the status quo.

Jarisik had been switched to his more familiar midfield role and quickly looked more at ease as Laziridis was pushed forward on the left in search of a way round one of the Premier League's most resolute defences.

But their task appeared helpless when they again switched off as Stuart Downing delivered a deep free-kick 19 minutes from time. Boro had two men over beyond the far post and, although Ugo Ehiogu tried and failed to get his head to it, Queudrue followed up behind him to stab home.

Birmingham had a smattering of attempts, although most of them lacked conviction. The best came from a curling free-kick by Pennant which bounced out off the outside of the far post.

Birmingham City (4-4-2): Taylor; Melchiot, Cunningham, Upson, Lazaridis; Pennant, Tebily (Forssell, 45), Butt, Clemence (Izzet, 45); Jarosik, Pandiani (Gray, 67). Substitutes not used: Vaesen (gk), Clapham.

Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Reiziger, Ehiogu, Southgate, Queudrue; Morrison (Bates, 89), Parlour, Boateng, Downing; Hasselbaink (Maccarone, 73), Viduka (Job, 78). Substitutes not used: Jones (gk), Doriva.

Referee: P Dowd (Stoke).

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