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Middlesbrough, Sevilla in UEFA Cup final

Italian striker Massimo Maccarone etched his name into Middlesbrough folklore by heading the Premier League side into the final for the first time.
By Reuters | None
PUBLISHED ON APR 28, 2006 01:07 PM IST

Italian striker Massimo Maccarone etched his name further into Middlesbrough folklore on Thursday by heading the Premier League side into the UEFA Cup final for the first time.

Substitute Maccarone's late goal, his second of the night, left Steaua Bucharest crestfallen as Boro pulled off another remarkable fightback from three goals down to set up a final against Spain's Sevilla in Eindhoven on May 10.

Trailing the former European champions 3-0 on aggregate after Steaua added two first-half goals to their first-leg lead, Boro scored four times in an hour to win 4-2 and seal a 4-3 aggregate success.

Their meeting with Sevilla will be the first of two Anglo-Spanish finals this season with Arsenal playing Barcelona in the Champions League final in Paris seven days later.

Substitute Antonio Puerta scored in extra time to send the Primera Liga side through to a first European final, sealing a 1-0 aggregate win over Germany's Schalke 04 to spark wild celebrations at the Sanchez Pizjuan.

"I can't believe it, it's incredible," said Maccarone, who got the last-minute winner to beat Basel in the last round when the north-east club also surged back from three goals down.

The Italian has been a bit-part player at Middlesbrough since joining from Empoli for more than eight million pounds ($14.27 million) in 2002.

Maccarone, an early substitute after injury forced off Gareth Southgate, kickstarted the comeback on 33 minutes after Nicolae Dica and Dorin Goian had seized on mistakes from keeper Brad Jones.

Australia striker Mark Vidula made it 2-2, defender Chris Riggott nudged in a third and then Maccarone met Stewart Downing's cross with a header in the 89th minute.

Victory was sweet for manager Steve McClaren, seemingly overtaken in the pecking order by Brazilian Luiz Felipe Scolari to replace Sven-Goran Eriksson as England manager after the World Cup.

"Magnificent resilience, character, attitude... I said that against Basel and they have done it again," said McClaren, whose side lost an FA Cup semi-final to West Ham United on Sunday.

"I thought lightning could not strike again in one place and it has tonight. We deserve that. We're doing it the hard way but we've got to the final, lets go one step further and win it."

Steaua coach Cosmin Olaroiu was stunned by the defeat and didn't hold off apportioning blame.

"Such a defeat is difficult to understand. Never in my life have I seen such goals from individual defending errors," he told Romanian state TV.

Olaroiu said his players had been more concerned by not getting booked and missing the final than concentrating on holding on to their lead.

"All my players who were in danger of not playing in the final (one booking from a suspension), played without the necessary determination.

"I told them at the break that only the team's qualification was important and not their own presence (as individuals) in the final in Eindhoven."

After 190 minutes of stalemate over the two legs, a flash of brilliance from local-born midfielder Puerta sent Sevilla into the final at the expense of 1997 winners Schalke.

Puerta sent an unstoppable half-volley swerving past keeper Frank Rost, off the post and into the back of the net 10 minutes into the first extra period.

The goal was met with an explosion of joy from the Sevilla fans who are in the middle of celebrating the city's annual fiesta, the Feria de Abril and thousands of fans invaded the pitch when the final whistle sounded.

"This is an enormous prize for us," said Sevilla coach Juande Ramos. "We knew it would be hard, but you don't get anywhere without fighting and suffering."

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