Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Our Villa Thrillers Aston Villa 0 Boro 2

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Our Villa Thrillers Aston Villa 0 Boro 2

Article excerpt

Byline: Eric Paylor

He's back and he's Braziliant!

Juninho staked a solid claim for his place as a Boro attacker with a jinking return at Villa Park.

The World Cup star bamboozled Aston Villa and played a massive role as Boro comfortably gathered another three valuable points.

He didn't operate as an orthodox striker, but slotted in behind Michael Ricketts, and pulled the strings up front.

With Gaizka Mendieta and Bolo Zenden playing adventurous roles on the flanks, Boro often had four attackers whenever they pushed forward, and Villa just couldn't cope.

It wasn't the perfect system, especially as Ricketts was occasionally left to plough a lone furrow. But it was effective.

It also provided a temporary answer as Steve McClaren keeps one eye on the January transfer window and wrestles with a squad of strikers who have not managed a goal in open play between them in 404 minutes.

Ricketts did mark his first start of the season with a goal from the penalty spot, displaying tremendous courage to pick up the ball while more famous names were queuing up for it.

The spot-kick will give Ricketts a much needed injection of confidence, though he still needs to make a massive improvement if he is to be the answer to our prayers.

However, Saturday's 74-minute run-out was a big step forward for the former Bolton man, and Ricketts played his part in a fine all-round team effort.

We saw all sides of the Boro at Villa Park. They had to defend strongly in the opening half hour as Villa dominated possession and stayed encamped in the Boro half.

But the game changed on the half-hour when Juninho released Franck Queudrue on the left and the Frenchman's pinpoint cross was clinically headed home by the diving Zenden.

Once in front, Boro did not look back. As Villa wilted, Juninho took up the reins and, for a long spell on either side of the interval, the Brazilian tortured them. …

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