Middlesbrough 1 (Christie 94) Brighton 0 (AET)
Schwarzer; Mills, Cooper, Southgate (Riggott), Queudrue; Greening, Doriva, Boateng, Downing (Juninho); Nemeth, Ricketts (Christie)
What The Northern Echo said: “The Riverside Stadium has witnessed many a glorious cup night in its eight-year existence but last night wasn't one of them as Middlesbrough stuttered their way into the third round of the Carling Cup.
Boro, League Cup runners-up twice in the last six years, were far from convincing despite dominating and only a moment of magic in extra-time from substitute Malcolm Christie settled this disappointing second-round tie.”
What Danny Mills said: “We struggled to get past Brighton. We absolutely battered them, but could not score. Malcolm Christie scored in the early minutes of injury time and I just thought, ‘Why couldn’t you have done that a few minutes ago? It was sod’s law. Instead, we had another half an hour, but we got through it.”
What Steve McClaren said: “Christie was a goalscorer and he got some important goals for us. I sent him on when we were struggling against Brighton and he did what he was always capable of doing by scoring the winner. But for injuries, maybe he could have made a real impact, but he never got truly fit again after a training-ground accident.”
October 29, 2003
Wigan 1 (Bullard 75) Middlesbrough 2 (Maccarone 36, Mendieta 66)
Schwarzer; Mills, Southgate, Riggott, Queudrue; Mendieta (Zenden), Boateng, Juninho, Greening; Ricketts (Doriva), Maccarone (Nemeth)
What The Northern Echo said: “Juninho and Middlesbrough rode their luck last night before stumbling into the fourth round of the Carling Cup.
Gaizka Mendieta's first goal for the club secured victory against Wigan Athletic, who gave Middlesbrough a searching examination at the JJB Stadium.
Juninho was on the periphery for much of the game but he was the architect of the win when he set up the 66th-minute winner.”
What Steve McClaren said: “After the Wigan game, we started to gain a bit of confidence. You know you need luck with cup runs and we seemed to have that. There were some difficult games throughout the run and all of them were close, but things fell into place.”
What Ugo Ehiogu said: “That was Mendieta’s first goal for Middlesbrough, but I think we all knew it would be the first of many. Mendi’s vision was up there with the very best. He could see pictures and execute passes that you’d always like to do, but not everyone could.”
December 3, 2003
Middlesbrough 0 Everton 0 (AET – Middlesbrough won 5-4 on penalties)
Penalties: Gravesen (0-1), Ricketts (1-1), Unsworth (1-2), Zenden (2-2), Osman (Saved, 2-2), Mills (3-2), McFadden (3-3), Maccarone (4-3), Stubbs (4-4), Mendieta (5-4)
Schwarzer; Mills, Southgate, Riggott, Queudrue; Mendieta, Boateng, Zenden, Greening; Nemeth (Ehiogu), Maccarone
What The Northern Echo said: “Gaizka Mendieta was the toast of Teesside as Middlesbrough edged into the last eight of the Carling Cup at the expense of Everton in a penalty shoot-out.
Midfielder Mendieta's spot-kick was decisive and clinched a quarter-final trip to Tottenham after goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer crucially saved Leon Osman's penalty.
Both sides squandered a host of chances to seal victory in the fourth-round tie on a frustrating night at the Riverside Stadium.”
What George Boateng said: “I was never on the list of penalty takers because we had players who were better at spot-kicks than me. I always gave absolutely everything during games, so when cup ties got to that stage, I was empty. I didn’t have the energy to concentrate.”
What Danny Mills said: “We were fully aware it might go to penalties so we had worked on them in training. But it was the first time I’d come up in a match against Nigel Martyn, who had been my room-mate at Leeds for four years. I had practised penalties against Nigel many times, so we had a little chuckle to ourselves. He knew exactly where I was going to go, but fortunately I hit it with enough pace that he couldn’t get to it.”
December 17, 2003
Tottenham 1 (Anderton 2) Middlesbrough 1 (Ricketts 86) (AET – Middlesbrough won 5-4 on penalties)
Penalties: Keane (1-0), Ricketts (1-1), Carr (2-1), Juninho (2-2), Konchesky (3-2), Zenden (3-3), Poyet (Saved, 3-3), Mills (3-4), Kanoute (4-4), Mendieta (Saved, 4-4), Taricco (Missed, 4-4), Queudrue (4-5)
Schwarzer; Mills, Southgate, Cooper (Nemeth), Queudrue; Mendieta, Boateng, Juninho, Zenden; Ricketts, Maccarone (Downing)
What The Northern Echo said: “Lightning struck twice as Middlesbrough triumphed on penalties for the second round in succession to reach the semi-finals of the Carling Cup.
Gaizka Mendieta missed the chance to repeat his feat of the previous round when Kasey Keller saved his spot-kick, but after Mauricio Taricco hit a post with his kick, Franck Queudrue struck the sudden-death penalty that secured another 5-4 success for Boro.
Boro recovered from the worst-possible start when Darren Anderton gave Spurs a second-minute lead, but Michael Ricketts swept home the first goal by a Boro player in open play in almost ten-and-a-half hours to equalise with four minutes left.”
What Gareth Southgate said: “Our run of seven games without conceding a goal was blown out of the water within seconds. With time running out, we thought we were out, but then Michael Ricketts scored very late on. Psychologically and momentum-wise, it was a massive time to score.”
What Steve McClaren said: “Ricketts was an enigma. I had seen him playing for Bolton and he was hit and miss. He didn’t do much else, but he could score goals. We had been looking at him for a while because we didn’t have a goalscorer. When the opportunity came up to sign him, we discussed it with Steve Gibson and agreed that this was probably the right time to do it. Unfortunately, his lifestyle was a problem.”
SEMI-FINAL FIRST LEG
January 20, 2004
Arsenal 0 Middlesbrough 1 (Juninho 53)
Schwarzer; Mills, Ehiogu, Riggott, Queudrue; Mendieta (Parnaby), Boateng, Doriva, Juninho, Zenden; Maccarone (Job)
What The Northern Echo said: “Juninho gave Middlesbrough the scent of a first major trophy and ended manager Steve McClaren's Arsenal hoodoo at Highbury last night.
Against a weakened Gunners side, Boro edged ahead in this Carling Cup semi-final to make a first-ever trip to Cardiff 's Millennium Stadium at the end of next month a real possibility.
This was McClaren's first win in management over Arsene Wenger's Arsenal after seven straight defeats - and he owed it all to Juninho.
The ubiquitous Brazilian, who admitted he was "very upset'' when dropped by McClaren after Boro managed only one point from their opening five games this season, underlined his value to the club with his best performance this term.”
What Franck Queudrue said: “We always had a bad record against Arsenal – we always lost to them, home and away. After the first game at Highbury, which was one of their last games there, we just knew that we could beat them over the two legs. Even though they put out a stronger team for the second leg, we did well.”
What Steve McClaren said: “I got the team sheets and thought, ‘We’ve a chance here’. We had experience and had come together to be a damn good team. I always think of that first leg as the Juninho game. That semi-final was the reason why we brought him back. He was never quite the same player we remembered, but he played really well down at Highbury. That was Juninho’s moment.”
SEMI-FINAL SECOND LEG
February 3, 2004
Middlesbrough 2 (Zenden 69, Reyes 85 (og)) Arsenal 1 (Edu 77)
Schwarzer; Mills, Southgate, Riggott, Queudrue; Mendieta, Juninho, Doriva, Greening (Parnaby), Zenden; Maccarone (Job)
What The Northern Echo said: “Spanish superkid Jose Antonio Reyes suffered a nightmare on his first Arsenal start as he scored the own goal that sends Middlesbrough to their fourth major Cup final in seven years.
Boro manager Steve McClaren laid to rest his hoodoo against Arsene Wenger's side, avenging the FA Cup semi-final defeat by the Gunners two seasons ago.
Gianluca Festa's own goal was the difference then and, by an amazing quirk of fate, it was one from Arsenal that settled the issue last night.
Amid scenes of high drama at the Riverside, £17m signing Reyes inadvertently found the wrong end five minutes from time when he went for the same ball as Stuart Parnaby.”
What Bolo Zenden said: “Arsenal didn’t put out the strongest team, but it was up to us to finish it off and do the job. Fortunately, we pulled it off against one of the best teams.”
What Steve McClaren said: “That night was probably the first time the Riverside crowd had a real influence on the game. Once we went 1-0 up through Zenden, the crowd were just magnificent. They responded and drove the team on. That was the moment when I felt everyone come together – players, management and supporters. It was one of those great nights.”
February 29, 2004
Bolton 1 (Davies 21) Middlesbrough 2 (Job 2, Zenden 7(pen))
Schwarzer; Mills, Southgate, Ehiogu, Queudrue; Mendieta, Boateng, Doriva, Juninho, Zenden; Job (Ricketts)
What The Northern Echo said: “It has been a tortuous journey but, at long last, Middlesbrough's quest is at an end. That first significant piece of silverware, which had eluded them for 128 years of their history, is finally in their grasp.
Three times in two agonising seasons Boro failed in major cup finals under Bryan Robson - the Coca-Cola Cup and FA Cup finals of 1997 and the former occasion a year later.
But under Steve McClaren, Robson's managerial successor, Boro's enduring dream of a trophy to treasure has become a glorious reality after an unforgettable Carling Cup final on a momentous day in Cardiff.
They closed the roof on the Millennium Stadium yesterday and, metaphorically-speaking, it fell in on Bolton.”
What Steve McClaren said: “I was superstitious and wanted to get into my lucky tracksuit. I always liked to be in a tracksuit for a game. As I walked up the tunnel back towards the pitch, I heard a roar and thought we’d gone behind, but of course we were 1-0 up. No sooner had I sat down than we were 2-0 up. From being relaxed, my overriding thought was ‘Now we have to win. I’ll look a right Muppet if we lose this now’.”
What Steve Gibson said: “When we got the two early goals, Keith Lamb said to me, ‘Bloody hell, it’s too early!’ I replied, ‘Don’t be so bloody stupid, we’ll take two goals that quick any day of the week’. It was just another sign of the nerves we all shared. We already had one hand on the cup, and didn’t want to lose it.”
What Juninho said: “One of my ambitions was complete. After eight years of trying, I had completed what I had started when I first joined Middlesbrough. It was a dream come true. I was very happy and excited to be part of the team that won the first title for the club. I’d have been sad if I hadn’t been part of that moment.”
* A host of Carling Cup memories are contained within the book, “One Giant Leap”, which has been published to help celebrate the 2003-04 success. Priced £15 it can be bought from the Middlesbrough FC stores at Captain Cook Square and the Riverside Stadium.