Middlesbrough fans are being put through the proverbial mill at the current time. Their team has lost five in a row, they have slipped out of the play-off places and there is unrest in the stands aimed at their manager, Tony Pulis.
But it was not always this bad.
A moment in time – Middlesbrough, 2006
This month sees 13 years pass, since Boro’ performed a Riverside miracle, not once, but twice, in the UEFA Cup.
Not many teams can claim to have recovered from three goal deficits in a two-legged European tie, to advance to the next round. That Boro’ did exactly that, twice in just three weeks, is remarkable.
In the quarter-final of the competition, outsiders Middlesbrough were despatched 2-0 by Swiss side, FC Basle. It looked an uphill task in the second leg for Steve McClaren’s side, and it looked an impossible one when the visitors took the lead in the 23rd minute of the return meeting.
Basle, three goals up, with an away goal in their pocket, just had to see out the remaining 67 minutes, and they were through to the semis.
Aussie, Mark Viduka, scored for the hosts just ten minutes later, but it would be no more than a consolation now… wouldn’t it?
In an incredible second half, Viduka got his second, and suddenly the home side saw a glimmer of hope.
Daniel Majstorovic was dismissed in the 73rd minute for a raised arm, and the visibly wilting Swiss side subsequently conceded, when Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink launched a torpedo of a shot into the net.
Suddenly, it was game on!
Pandemonium was taking over the Riverside, and just when it appeared that time would beat them, Massimo Maccarone nudged home a rebound in the 90th minute.
Unbelieveable! A semi-final against Steaua Bucharest was all that stood between Boro’ and a major European Final.
But they were heading out, when they again found themselves three goals down in the second leg. This time, after losing the away tie 1-0, they conceded two away goals in the opening 25 minutes of the second to make it a forlorn hope.
But Boro’s players had not read the script.
Maccarone scored just after the half-hour and Viduka added a second in the 64th minute.
The Riverside was suddenly alive again, as memories of the previous round were swirling in their head.
Amid the expectant buzz, Chris Riggott slotted home an untidy third — but no one cared about that. It was Groundhog Day for the home fans!
It was bedlam inside the packed stadium.
Like the last game, again, time ticked down. Again Boro’ looked like they would fall just short. But again, Maccarone was on hand to leap onto the end of a Stewart Downing cross, and achieve the impossible.
Boro’ — the now Comeback Kings — had risen from the dead to book a trip to Eindhoven, where they would face Sevilla in the UEFA Cup FInal!
The story did not have the fairy-tale ending, with the Spanish side romping to a 4-0 victory, but what Middlesbrough did that April, will go down in, not just Teesside folklore, but the European history books, and will probably never be matched.
Were you at those games, Boro’ fans? Do you yearn for those days back again? Let us know your thoughts and memories…
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