Fulham fashioned the unlikeliest of fightbacks by scoring twice in the final two minutes to steal a point from the Riverside Stadium and ruin Massimo Maccarone’s magnificent Middlesbrough home debut.
Steve McClaren’s side seemed set to secure a routine victory when Maccarone opened his account with a brilliant brace, his first goals since signing from Empoli for £8.1m in the summer. Fulham looked down and out until Sean Davis slammed in what looked like being a consolation a minute frim time. Unbelievably, Jean Tigana’s side scored a second a minute later as Facundo Sava made the hosts pay for some sleepy defending.
Such an exhilarating ending was entirely out of keeping with a dreary first half during which Fulham failed to make the most of a number of promising positions following pretty passing. The Whites couldn’t carve out a single chance to test Mark Schwwarzer and found themselves behind shortly after the half hour. Maccarone, who caused the visitors problems all afternoon, forged a fine partnership with Allen Boksic in attack and fired a fabulous left-footed drive past a helpless Edwin van der Sar. His Croatian strike partner Boksic might have made it two before half time but saw his goalbound shot blocked by Steve Finnan.
Louis Saha squandered a superb chance when he sent a simple header wide of goal from a fine Steed Malbranque cross and Maccarone gave the Frenchman a finishing lesson at the other end. The Italian striker powered in Jonathan Greening’s ball after the former Manchester United midfielder’s marauding run along the left flank. Maccarone could easily have grabbed his hat-trick, shooting fractionally wide shortly after scoring his second, and then seeing a shot from another Greening cross saved by van der Sar.
Nobody new at the time but McClaren’s decision to offer the home debutant a chance to soak up the adulation of the Riverside faithful by removing with six minutes was the catalyst for Boro’s collapse. Davis drilled home after Saha had seen a shot blocked and, only a minute, the home defence left Sava unattended ten yards out and the Argentinian pinched a point with a precise finish from ten yards.
MIDDLESBROUGH (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Geremi, Cooper, Ehiogu, Southgate, Stockdale; Boateng, Greening, Marinelli (Wilson 84); Maccarone (Whelan 84), Boksic (Job 79). Subs (not used: Crossley, Gavin.
BOOKED: Marinelli, Geremi, Ehiogu, Wilson.
GOALS: Maccarone (32, 51).
FULHAM (4-4-2): van der Sar; Finnan, Brevett, Melville, Goma; Davis, Legwinski Malbranque (Inamoto 60), Boa Morte; Marlet (Sava 61), Saha. Subs (not used): Taylor, Ouaddoh, Collins.
BOOKED: Malbranque, Finnan.
GOALS: Davis (89), Sava (90).
REFEREE: Mike Dean (Wirral).