Football: Hot Stew May Well Suit Sven; UEFA CUP: Semi-Final, 2nd Leg Middlesbrough 4 Steaua Bucharest 2 MIDDLESBROUGH WIN 4-3 ON AGGREGATE
Byline: David McDonnell
IT'S a measure of how highly Sven Goran Eriksson rates Stewart Downing that the England boss flew to Bucharest last week specifically to check on the Middlesbrough winger.
Few players can command such treatment from the Swede and Eriksson was again in attendance at The Riverside last night to assess Downing's chances of making England's World Cup squad.
A knee injury may have sabotaged Downing's season and meant he has featured in only a third of Boro's games, but Eriksson is acutely aware of the youngster's quality and, crucially, his versatility.
With two or three places in Eriksson's final 23-man squad up for grabs, last night provided Downing with the perfect opportunity to prove himself as back-up to Joe Cole on the left side.
But apart from a ball over the Steaua defence to Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, which drew rapturous applause from the Boro fans, Downing did little in the first-half to justify Eriksson's trip to Teesside.
When Steaua took an early two-go al lead which looked to have killed the tie, drastic action was needed to somehow force their way back into the contest.
And when Boro skipper Gareth Southgate was forced off injured, Steve McClaren changed formation and Downing was pushed out wider. …