Date: 2nd January 2010 at 6:42pm
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An Embarrassing attendance, witnessed an undoubtedly lethargic, lacklustre display at the Riverside Stadium.

A surprise start for Benjani was the difference between the two sides, the Zimbabwean striker netted a smart finish on the stroke of half time in treacherous conditions.

The heavy snow added an unwanted disappointment factor to the F.A Cup 3rd Round fixture.

Over recent years the magic of the cup has drastically faded; reserve sides picked, falling attendances and Premier League clubs priorities lying elsewhere.

Today did little to resurrect the historical nature of the F.A Cup, a weaker side picked by Mancini with a rest needed for our more illustrious players in wake of the Semi Final Fixture against the old enemy.

Small numbers would argue with the team Mancini put out, with the chance of our first trophy in 33 years getting ever closer it was time for other squad members to step up and take their chance.

Middlesbrough hardly gave a remarkable performance under their invisible home fans either, with their physical prowess playing a lone dominant factor in the game. Arguably, this was the home sides and Strachan`s greatest chance to make disappointing results disappear into the background.

On the other hand, Mancini had the chance to witness the squad strength in a match situation, consider which players are dead wood and calmly ease young talent into the first team. However, as the match progressed Mancini would have been looking on with more disappointment than pride as his young side failed to assert their authority.

The chance that the players had today would have added great pressure, a much wanted and needed future for some players at this club would be high on their agenda. Few players did little to enhance their playing dreams at the club with nervy, substandard cagey performance.

Middlesbrough started the brighter in dismal conditions but were left to pay for creating little if any clear cut first half chances. Benjani opened the scoring in noteworthy fashion. The striker, who looked well off the pace, made an intuitive run splitting the defence, the on rushing Petrov slid Benjani in who shot crisply into the opposite corner.

As disappointing as we had been, the pace was being picked up in the latter stages of the first half and Middlesbrough looked shell-shocked. With the earlier withdrawal of the impressive Adam Johnson, Middlesbrough certainly had a mountain to climb.

Mancini had ensured another half of football where the opposition failed to score. As unpleasing on the eye this first half display was there was much needed admiration for the Italian Stallion who has unequivocally shored up the leaky defence.

Half Time- Mcfc- 1 Boro- 0

Mancini was clearly unimpressed and decided to add much needed spice in the shape of Carlos Tevez. Gareth Barry was also added to reassure the defence and midfield with quality distribution and well timed tackles.

Despite this, the second half continued to be played at a resoundingly unhurried pace. Fortunately we began to dominate proceedings and a Boro comeback was becoming increasingly unlikely.

Tevez was at his usual inspirational best with constant harrying of defenders as well as breaking free and having several goal mouth opportunities of his own. The in-form striker would have been disappointed with his efforts though, failing to score with opportunities that would have expected a Tevez goal.

Middlesbrough continued to fight but had little to show for their efforts. The long ball was used sufficiently and if chances were provided their efforts might have paid off.

The minority of home fans frustration was increasing as their side looked set to lose another home encounter.

Several last minute efforts came in the space of a minute for City, however, our fantastic opportunities failed to materialise. Luckily it was job done in our case, Boro continued to press but time was running out for the Teesiders.

On another day, with more quality, Boro might have had a chance to snatch a giant killing in this fixture but a mixed City side, who failed to get out of third gear, clinched a place in the draw with another clean sheet, Mancini’s third successive.

Hopefully, a much improved performance will await the home fans this Wednesday against Manchester United, but its job done at the Riverside and another cup competition where we remain strong.

F-T Mcfc 1-0 Boro

Player Ratings

Little to do. Looked comfortable when called upon.

Another fine all-round performance from the fullback. Looked assured in possession and was comfortable both going forward and defending.

Gane as good as he got in a strong first half display. Was replaced at half time with Wednesday’s game in mind.

Very impressed with the young centre back. One of the few players to come out of the fixture with a sense of pride. Looked very strong defensively and as the game progressed he looked more comfortable in possession.

A Curate’s egg. At times he looked strong and at times he could have done a little better. Will be hoping for a midweek start and his two recent performances might have entitled him one.

The versatile Belgium looked the most accomplished performer in todays performance. Match winning performances were made at both central midfield and at the heart of the defence.

De Jong-6
Nothing spectacular as usual from De Jong but defensively sound. Withdrawn at half time as he is much needed for Wednesday.

Impressive and increasingly becoming more versatile. His experience helped as the Brazilian was continually being shifted across midfield.

Good assist for the goal. Other than that a quiet performance from Petrov who looked like he was affected by the cold.

Unfortunately disappointing. A real chance to shine for Vlad who underperformed. Lost the ball on numerous occasions and often looked too much for the stepover or flick.

Often isolated upfront but scored the much needed important goal. This goal with eiher give him great confidence or will have bought him a move from City.

A real handful. Created several clean cut opportunities and would have been disappointed not to have scored atleast once.

At home under Mancini. Came on at half time showing all the importance he plays to the team. Created several attacks and defended well.
Didn’t have too long to make an impact but as always he did. His pace and presence is irreplaceable as he is fast becoming a great.

Manager Rating
Mancini- Bold in his team selection but it proved correct as we grinded out a result. Made correct changes at the perfect time. Another cleansheet, is he magic?


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