Middlesbrough 2-1 Southampton



Zemmama (pictured) curled a beautiful free-kick up and over the yellow wall to give Boro a winner- and a fighting chance of making the play-offs 


By Adam Higgins
Chief Football Editor from the Riverside Stadium 

Southampton missed their chance to clinch promotion to the Premier League as Merouane Zemmama's superb free-kick gave Middlesbrough a thrilling 2-1 win which keeps their play-off hopes alive.

The Saints, who knew a victory would send them back up to the top flight for the first time since the 2004-05 season, made the perfect start when top goalscorer Rickie Lambert set up strike partner Billy Sharp to score after just 47 seconds. But Boro, who needed the three points to stay in the play-off race, levelled through Nicky Bailey's deflected shot. And Zemmama won it thirteen minutes from time with a curling shot into the corner of the net.

The result means Reading are crowned champions of the Championship and the race for the second automatic position will go to the last day of the season next weekens- if third-placed West Ham United can beat Leicester City on Monday night. Saints need a win at home to relegated Coventry City in next Saturday's finale, otherwise they can be overhauled by the Hammers, who are five points behind Nigel Adkins' side but play the Foxes before facing Hull City at Upton Park next Saturday. Tony Mowbray's Boro, meanwhile, can still finish in the top six if they can beat Watford and Cardiff City lose their match away to Crystal Palace.

Tony Mowbray's men showed tremendous spirit to fight back from Sharp's first-minute strike, which came after some unselfish play by Lambert. Adam Lallana's header played in Lambert who, with Boro keeper Jason Steele off his line and closing him down, unselfishly squared for Sharp to slot home from close range to give the visitors the start they wished for. Southampton's away form has been splendid this season- losing just two on the road in 2012 so far coming into the match.


The last time Southampton had lost a league game after taking the lead was on 29th September 2009, when Bristol Rovers won their League One match 3-2 at St Mary's after trailing 1-0 and 2-1. But Boro responded well, with Belgian international Faris Haroun finding plenty of space down the right and sending in a dangerous low cross that Danny Fox from left-back had to slide in to reach ahead of Lukas Jutkiewicz, before Barry Robson, who is set to leave the club to join the MLS at the end of the season, blasted over with Saints skipper Dean Hammond rushing to get out to him in the hope of blocking the shot.

Robson joined Justin Hoyte in firing in further shots from distance and, although Fox fired just wide with a free-kick at the other end for Southampton, the momentum was certainly with Boro- who were frustrated in midweek by already-relegated Doncaster Rovers taking a point in a drab goalless draw.

The home side deservedly levelled on the stroke of half-time when Bailey, who had contributed four Championship goals this season before today, met Jos Hooiveld's headed clearance with a first-time shot from the edge of the box which hit the back of Richard Chaplow on its way into the net past a stranded Kelvin Davis.


The victory was Middlesbrough's first at home since a 2-0 success over Barnsley on 6th March- and only their fourth in the last thirteen Championship games.
Saints- who defeated Peterborough 3-1 in the week to leave themselves just a win away from promotion- responded by starting the second half on the attack and the game could have headed in a very different direction had referee Tony Bates decided to show Boro defender Seb Hines a second yellow card after fifty-five minutes for clipping Lallana's heels as he prepared to shoot on the edge of the box. It was a decision that brought Adkins to his feet from his seat. The Football League's most experienced match official Bates kept his cards in his pocket, however, and Saints were unable to make their pressure count as the free-kick from Lallana was shot straight into the wall.

Boro belatedly began to venture forward again themselves and, when Fox fouled Jutkiewicz in a promising position for a free-kick expert, former Hibernian midfielder Zemmama- starting a league match for the first time in this calendar year- stepped up to bend an unstoppable shot into the top corner. The Moroccan international, starting because of Julio Arca's withdrawal from the squad due to his wife going into labour this week, vindicated his selection in style with a fine goal which was his first since last August and only the third he has scored for Boro since his move from the SPL.

The closest Saints came to an equaliser were two shots from substitute Guly Do Prado. The first fizzed over after good work from Danny Butterfield and the second spooned miles over after taking a touch inside the box to bring down a long throw from Fox. Their fans will anxiously watch events at the King Power Stadium on Monday in the hope that Leicester can help their side over the finish line by taking some points off the Hammers. It is now just two wins from the last five in the league for Southampton but promotion is just a win away which will give Nigel Adkins some comfort.

Adam Higgins
The Football Site- Chief Football Editor

"It is a match affecting matters promotion to the Premier League for both sides and the penultimate weekend of the season. It is bound to be tight, tense and nervy for the players and for most of the game that's exactly what it was. Southampton got a great start but couldn't build on it as Nigel Adkins explained afterwards. It was a great response from Middlesbrough- many teams can drop their heads after conceding early but they stuck the task, knowing they had to win to keep alive their play-off hopes and got stuck in after that and turned it around deservedly in my opinion. It makes the shake up for the final day that ever more interesting."



Saturday 21st April 2012

Npower Championship

The Riverside Stadium


Middlesbrough 2-1 Southampton                         KO 5:20pm               (HT 1-1)

Bailey 45              Sharp 1
Zemmama 77


Middlesbrough:  1 Steele- 8/10, 2 Hoyte- 3.5/10 (Bennett 40- 6/10), 6 McManus- 7/10, 15 Hines- 7/10, 29 McMahon- 7/10, 17 Robson (C)- 7.5/10 (Williams 59- 4.5/10), 5 Zemmama- 7.5/10, 38 Haroun- 9/10, 10 Bailey- 8/10, 7 McDonald- 7/10 (Main 59- 4.5/10), 30 Jutkiewicz- 6.5/10.

Subs not used:  11 Hammill, 16 Ogbeche

Booked:      Zemmama (37), Bailey (49), Hines (51)


Southampton:  1 Davis- 7.5/10, 12 Butterfield- 6.5/10 (Schneiderlin 84- 2.5/10), 26 Hooiveld- 5.5/10, 6 Jose Fonte- 7/10, 13 Fox- 7.5/10, 18 Chaplow- 6/10 (Guly 61- 4.5/10), 8 Cork- 6.5/10, 14 Hammond (C)- 6.5/10, 20 Lallana- 7.5/10, 7 Lambert- 6.5/10, 11 Sharp- 7/10.

Subs not used:  21 Biaklowski, 3 Harding, 16 Martin 

Booked:      Jose Fonte (75)


My Man of the Match:     Faris Haroun (Middlesbrough)- Rating 9/10

My Poorest Performer of the Match:    Jos Hooiveld (Southampton)- Rating 5.5/10 



Referee: Tony Bates (Staffordshire)- 8.5/10
Attendance: 19,002



Match Facts

Possession: Middlesbrough- 49%               Southampton- 51%

Shots: Middlesbrough- 10                 Southampton- 12

Shots on target: Middlesbrough- 4                Southampton- 3

Shots off target: Middlesbrough- 6                Southampton- 9

Corners: Middlesbrough- 5                  Southampton- 11

Fouls: Middlesbrough- 12                  Southampton- 5

Offside: Middlesbrough- 3                 Southampton- 4

Assists: Middlesbrough- None              Southampton- Lambert



Middlesbrough manager Tony Mowbray

"That (win) keeps it alive for us, it keeps it bubbling in terms of our play-off chances. We know now we have to go to Watford and win which is a big incentive for us as a football club. We would love Premier League football next year. Yes, we would still need someone else to do us a favour - Cardiff have a tough game at Crystal Palace - but we are still in there and fighting which is imperative. And, to be fair, the lads deserve it after that performance- it was really good with some good football at times. To come from a goal down so early showed great character from the lads and that is what they have been all season long. I was pleased today. But they knew they had to. The fans were terrific today and it is a great support that we had. They knew that only three points would do and they played in a very positive manner befitting the situation that we were in. It was must win against a great side and we have come through it. Now we must move on to the next one and the final push."



Southampton manager Nigel Adkins

"It would have been nice to seal it today, especially for all those fans who have come such a long way to support us. But we will have to make sure we do it at home now. We know what we have to do next week when we play Coventry at our place in front of 32,000 people. We have to make sure. They are already relegated so don't have a lot to play for but it can work against us so we have to be careful. We had a great start here, it is not often you score a goal in the first minute and that should have given us a platform to go on and win the match score a second goal and get the points, we know that. But credit to Middlesbrough, they worked very hard to get back in the match and they made it very difficult for us. They needed to win just as much as we did and were better than us in the second half I thought. We had some chances to get back into the game but just couldn't force an equaliser. The defence wasn't at its best today and that is something we are going to have to sort out this week."


Watch match highlights of Middlesbrough's 2-1 victory over Southampton by clicking here

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