A FURIOUS Steve McClaren blasted Middlesbrough's efforts in last night's Carling Cup defeat to Blackburn and claimed his side's performance was as bad as anything he had seen during his time at the club.

The Boro boss was still seething when he delivered his post-match assessment on a defeat that leaves Blackburn looking forward to a two-legged semi-final with Manchester United in the New Year.

Paul Dickov's 90th-minute winner ended Boro's dream of a return to Cardiff's Millennium Stadium but, while extra-time looked certain before the Rovers striker tapped home from close range, the goal was no more than Blackburn deserved.

Middlesbrough created nothing at all before Massimo Maccarone hit the post in stoppage time, and McClaren was honest enough to admit that his team had seriously under-performed in front of yet another sparse crowd.

"That's as disappointed as I've been in a long, long time," said the Boro boss. "We've limped out of the tournament and I can't sit here and defend a performance like that.

"We were second best to everything and I'm very angry. It was only a matter of time before Blackburn scored and the only surprise is that it took them so long.

"It's very unlike us. I can't single out any player for criticism because the whole performance was poor. Nobody came out of it with any credit at all.

"We play again in five days time and we have to be a lot better than we were here. I've told the players 'Just make sure that's a one-off'. It better had be."

While Blackburn were always the hungrier of the two sides, the complexion of the game changed once Robbie Savage had clashed with Emanuel Pogatetz shortly before half-time.

The Wales international claimed Pogatetz had spat in his face following a typically abrasive challenge. Television replays proved inconclusive but, from that point onwards, Savage marshalled Blackburn's midfield with a ferocity Boro failed to match.

"The lad came up to Robbie, shouted something, and maybe something flew out of his mouth," said Blackburn boss Mark Hughes. "But to say he was spat at is maybe a little bit strong."

Meanwhile, Boro officials are set to tear up Abel Xavier's contract after UEFA rejected the defender's appeal against a drugs ban.

The Portugal international was suspended for 18 months after testing positive for the banned anabolic steroid dianabol in the aftermath of September's UEFA Cup game in Xanthi.

UEFA heard his appeal yesterday, with the initial suspension being upheld. The 32-year-old can still make one final appeal, to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Read more about Middlesbrough here.