Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate admitted his side had enjoyed a huge slice of luck after a freakish extra-time winner sent them into the last eight of the FA Cup with a 1-0 win over Sheffield United.
Boro had marginally shaded an uninspiring contest on points but it still took a bizarre own goal by Sheffield United goalkeeper Paddy Kenny to separate the two sides in Wednesday night’s fifth-round replay.
With penalties looming in the second period of extra time, Boro’s Egyptian striker Mido fired in a shot that took a deflection off Chris Morgan and looped over Kenny and on to the post.
The ball bounced straight back towards the goalkeeper who, caught unawares, contrived to fumble it over his own line, effectively handing Boro a quarterfinal home tie against another Championship outfit, Cardiff.
”We had plenty of chances to win but obviously the longer it went on the more it looked like it would be decided on penalties,” Southgate said.
”But we have shown a lot of character. They have done that all season and they have done it again. We had the chances to wrap it up but in the end we have been very fortunate with the goal.
”It was a classic FA Cup goal but I have to pay credit to Sheffield. Over the two games they pushed us all the way and they have a lot of Premiership quality players in their side.”
Southgate handed striker Afonso Alves his first start since his £12,7-million capture in the January transfer window and it was a promising full debut from the Brazilian, described as ”a real threat” by his delighted manager.
As early as the ninth minute, a clever turn by Alves forced defender Derek Geary to concede a free-kick and it took a fine block by Morgan to prevent him firing Boro into the lead soon afterwards.
The visitors’ best early chance fell to former England striker James Beattie, who fluffed his volley straight at goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer after being found by Gary Naysmith’s cross.
Another good block by Morgan denied Alves early in the second half and the Brazilian came close to scoring his first goal for Boro on 65 minutes after being fed by Julio Arca.
Cutting inside, Alves unleashed a low right-foot shot, which Kenny did well to hold.
The Brazilian was denied once more by a superb challenge from Matthew Kilgallon, but his lack of a goal did not prevent him from being warmly cheered when he departed with just over a quarter of an hour left.
Boro had enjoyed the better of the first 90 minutes but it was their Championship opponents who finished stronger.
After almost finding Rob Hulse with a knockdown four minutes from the end, Beattie could have won the tie in the final minute of regulation time but failed to hit the target after being found by Welsh veteran midfielder Gary Speed’s ball into the near post. — Sapa-AFP