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Majestic Middlesbrough top Group E

Wednesday, 15 December 2004

By Andrew Haslam at Riverside stadium

[1] First-half goals from Szilárd Nemeth and Joseph-Désiré Job and a late third from substitute James Morrison earned Middlesbrough FC a victory against FK Partizan that ensured the English side progressed to the UEFA Cup knockout stages as Group E winners.

Third-placed opposition

[2] Nemeth and Job, who were preferred to first-choice pair Mark Viduka and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, gave the home team a 2-0 lead by the 22nd minute before Morrison added a third at the death, confirming that Middlesbrough will be paired with one of the third-placed sides in Friday's Round of 32 draw. Partizan also progressed, but dropped to third position following Villarreal CF's 4-0 win against Egaleo FC.

Strikers rested

[3] In addition to his striking reshuffle, Middlesbrough manager Steve McClaren was without George Boateng due to an ankle injury so Doriva came into midfield, while Franck Queudrue returned to defence. Partizan made one change to the side that drew 1-1 with Villarreal on Matchday 4, Albert Nadj replacing Simon Vukcevic in midfield.

Nemeth delight

[4] It took the hosts only ten minutes to slice open the visitors' defence. Nemeth raced clear on to Job's through-ball and prodded his shot below Partizan goalkeeper Ivica Kralj.

Well-worked second

[5] Pierre Boya was then booked for an aerial challenge on Colin Cooper, ruling him out of Partizan's next match as the away team briefly threatened to rally, but instead it was Middlesbrough who struck again. Queudrue won the ball midway inside the Partizan half and fed Nemeth, who unselfishly squared to leave Job with a simple finish.

Ilic opportunity

[6] Partizan again responded well, Saša Ilic exchanging passes with Boya and bursting into the penalty area but, under pressure from Queudrue, sliced wide. Moments later, Stewart Downing raced down the left, but from the winger's low centre, Kralj somehow blocked Job's close-range effort.

Golden chance

[7] That proved to be the Partizan goalkeeper's last meaningful contribution as he limped off to be replaced by Djordje Pantic, but it was at the other end where the visitors almost ended an eventful half on a positive note. Ilic was again the provider but, a metre out and with the goal gaping, Boya could not connect with his cross.

Brnovic denied

[8] The home side again might have added to their advantage soon after half-time, Nemeth just failing to turn Downing's cross in and then volleying over. Partizan patiently worked their way back into the game, though, and might have scored twice inside three minutes, as first Ilic sidefooted wide in front of goal before Mark Schwarzer pulled off a fine fingertip save from Nenad Brnovic's header.

Final flourish

[9] Both teams had further opportunities, with Cooper nodding Boudewijn Zenden's free-kick past the post and Nadj blazing over after Schwarzer had spilled Vukcevic's shot, but the goalkeeper redeemed himself with a late block from Boya before Morrison's late flourish. The substitute cut inside and drove a low shot bezond Pantic, although there was still time for Brnovic to strike a post.

Szilárd Nemeth celebrates his early goal with Middlesbrough team-mates