Hignett at home

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The Independent Online
Middlesbrough 2

Hignett 39, Fjortoft 74

Chelsea 0

Attendance: 28,286

AFTER 93 years at Ayresome Park, Middlesbrough moved into their pounds 16m Riverside Stadium with a well-deserved victory. But although the newly laid turf was graced by multi-million- pound men such as Ruud Gullit, Mark Hughes and Nick Barmby, a player who took a summer pay cut to stay at Middlesbrough stole the show.

Craig Hignett, a pounds 500,000 signing from Crewe three years ago, scored a 39th-minute goal fit for any opening day. Just like last Sunday at Highbury, Fjortoft squeezed the ball to Barmby, who had a clear run into the box. Rather than shoot, he squared the ball to Hignett who blasted home.

The nippy runs of Boro's attackers were aided by Chelsea's vanishing defence. Gullit likes to maraud forward, looking for the perfect pass but leaving gaps at the back. Erland Johnsen, Dennis Wise and John Spencer were all victims as they were booked for last-ditch tackles.

Only in the first 20 minutes of the second half did Chelsea seriously threaten Middlesbrough's lead. Once, Hughes broke away from the shackles of Steve Vickers, Nigel Pearson and Derek Whyte, but his trademark volley troubled only Middlesbrough's largest crowd for 13 years.

As successive Chelsea attacks failed - Hughes hit the bar, Gullit headed high - the Dutchman could only shake his dreadlocks in dismay. That dismay deepened in the 70th minute when Hignett again scampered through. At the end of a 50-yard run, he drew Johnsen, slipped the ball wide to Barmby on the right, and the low centre was toe-ended in by Fjortoft.

The Norwegian could have created a fitting finale when in the 83rd minute he floated a lovely lob on to Dmitri Kharin's bar. But Middlesbrough, modelled on their manager Bryan Robson's competitiveness, had already seen off a Chelsea side that also bore the hallmarks of their manager, Glenn Hoddle: some nice touches but not enough end-product.