FOOTBALL: Bolo the ace for Boro

FOOTBALL: Bolo the ace for Boro

MIKE ALLEN

BOLO Zenden’s brilliant chip stretched Middlesbrough’s unbeaten run to four Premiership matches.

The Dutchman’s 58th-minute goal gave Boro a deserved victory at The Valley against a Charlton side descending into crisis.

The home fans jeered the substitution of Shaun Bartlett and then booed misplaced passes long before the end, but Alan Curbishley’s problems are of no concern for Boro manager Steve McClaren.

His side now goes into Thursday’s UEFA Cup clash with Lazio, having climbed to fourth in the table.

And McClaren said afterwards: “This gives us a big boost at the start of an important week.

“We can look forward to playing Lazio on Thursday with confidence on what should be a memorable night. I was absolutely delighted with our performance. We had a major breakthrough against one of our bogey teams.”

Zenden’s winner came after Jonatan Johansson cancelled out Talal El Karkouri’s own-goal; and although late Charlton pressure required some firm defending, the final whistle was greeted by a predictable chorus of jeers by the home fans.

Charlton’s problems are clear to see – and their hesitancy in defence betrayed them in the 12th minute.

Stewart Downing’s corner from the Boro right was pushed away by Addicks keeper Dean Kiely from under his bar just as Mark Viduka put him under pressure.

Whilst Charlton fans enjoyed a step-over extravaganza performed by Jerome Thomas on his Premiership debut, there was rarely any product at the end of it.

Despite a previously unbeaten home record in the Premiership, Curbishley had warned he was thinking of freshening up the team following their midweek Carling Cup defeat by Crystal Palace. He did more than that, blowing a gale through the side with five changes, including leaving Danny Murphy and Kevin Lisbie on the bench.

In contrast, Boro have one of the Premiership’s form players in Downing; and so trouble was on the cards from the moment a poor clearance by Kiely went straight to the young left-sided midfielder.

Downing drove down his wing and what followed summed up the way Charlton’s confidence and luck has deserted them.

Downing’s cross was poorly cleared by Chris Perry straight to Zenden and his 18-yard shot hit Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink in the chest, and then rebounded off El Karkouri before bobbling over the line.

It was the first goal McClaren had seen his team score at The Valley since taking charge at Boro.

Boro were showing why they had not been beaten since losing to Chelsea in late-September.

Chris Riggott was outstanding in defence, twice blocking when Athletic finally looked to have created clear goal-scoring chances.

Boro caused problems at the other end when a Downing cross whipped past the far post untouched.

Hasselbaink fired just wide in added time at the end of the first half, but after the break it was an improved Charlton side.

Whatever Curbishley said in the dressing rooms clearly had an effect on Jason Euell. He appeared to have the touch of an elephant in the opening 45 minutes but seconds after the restart he tested Mark Schwarzer from 20 yards, and within a minute made an even more telling contribution.

Euell’s brilliant reverse pass split the Boro defence and Johansson ran on to the ball and rounded Schwarzer before sliding home his first goal of the season.

Charlton were briefly ignited, but their rejuvenation did not last long as all the carelessness of the first half reappeared.

Copyright 2004 MGN LTD

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