Middlesbrough FC held off a spirited VfB Stuttgart fightback to reach the last 16 of the UEFA Cup for the second successive season despite Christian Tiffert's goal on Teesside.
The English side had laid the foundation for their victory in last week's first leg in Germany with a 2-1 victory, although that aggregate lead lasted less than 15 minutes of tonight's second leg as Tiffert rounded off an incisive Stuttgart passing move with a composed finish. Middlesbrough still held the upper hand on away goals, however, and preserved their narrow advantage until the final whistle to set up a meeting with AS Roma.
Tiffert on target
The visitors' hopes suffered a blow before kick-off as top scorer Jon Dahl Tomasson was ruled out having picked up a rib injury in training last night. Danijel Ljuboja led the Stuttgart attack and threatened twice early on before making his presence felt as a creative force in the 13th minute. The Serbo-Montenegrin's pass was taken in his stride by Tiffert, who sliced through the centre of Middlesbrough's defence before prodding a low shot beyond Mark Schwarzer.
Middlesbrough manager Steve McClaren had predicted that the first goal would be vital, but the German side surprisingly declined to press home their advantage and gradually dropped deeper. The home side nevertheless failed to create a clear chance in the first half but came close to an equaliser with barely 60 seconds played after the interval as Lee Cattermole's through-pass sent Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink clear, only for Timo Hildebrand to race off his line and block.
Thereafter the home side looked to encourage Stuttgart forward in the hope of catching the visitors on the counterattack, and the policy nearly bore fruit just past the hour as Hasselbaink's low left-wing cross was collected by Gaizka Mendieta, who evaded the attentions of Hildebrand but Markus Babbel was on hand to clear the shot off the line. Stuttgart, meanwhile, had only three long-range Ludovic Magnin free-kicks to show for their second-half efforts, and bowed out in the Round of 32 for the second year running.