For the second UEFA Cup tie in succession, Middlesbrough FC came from three goals down to progress, with substitute Massimo Maccarone heading an 89th-minute winner to crown a 4-2 victory against FC Steaua Bucuresti and send the English side into the final for the first time.
Holding a 1-0 advantage from last week's first leg, two goals in nine minutes, from Nicolae Dica and Dorin Goian, seemed to have cleared Steaua's route to the final in Eindhoven on 10 May. Maccarone brought Middlesbrough back into the tie before the interval, however, and second-half strikes from Mark Viduka and Chris Riggott set up a tense finale. And just as it looked like the visitors would hold on to become the first Romanian club to reach the UEFA Cup final, Maccarone dived to head in with seconds remaining to take the English side through in only their second season in European competition.
Steaua take charge
The early threat came from Steaua, with Dica heading over a left-wing corner as early as the second minute. Middlesbrough failed to heed the warning, and fell behind in the 16th minute as the visitors strung together a good passing move to allow Petre Marin to cut in from the left and left fly. Brad Jones could only parry his viciously dipping shot and Dica was on to the rebound in a flash to supply a clinical finish. Eight minutes later, the Romanian side looked to have all but booked their place in Eindhoven as another set-piece undid the home team, Goian meeting Gabriel Bostina's right-wing corner with a downward header and collecting the ensuing rebound to rifle in his side's second.
Middlesbrough had overturned a three-goal deficit against FC Basel 1893 in the quarter-finals, however, and despite the loss of captain Gareth Southgate, they rallied swiftly. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink almost diverted in Fábio Rochemback's shot but Steaua's advantage was cut just past the half-hour. Viduka, back in the side after a recovering from a thigh problem, picked out Southgate's replacement Maccarone in space on the right and the Italian forward beat Carlos Alberto Fernandes with a low shot. The Steaua goalkeeper kept his side in front on the night with two crucial blocks from Viduka before half-time, first stopping the Australian's shot after Maccarone and Hasselbaink had sliced through the visiting defence and then stretching out a leg to turn away an acrobatic overhead volley.
Pressure continued to mount on the visitors as the second half got under way, with Steve McClaren introducing a fourth striker ten minutes after the interval in the shape of Yakubu Ayegbeni. The Nigerian promptly forced Fernandes into a point-blank block before Hasselbaink turned Maccarone's low centre just past the post. Home hopes were revived as Viduka headed in Stewart Downing's left-wing cross in the 64th minute and when Fernandes could only parry the winger's low shot nine minutes later, Riggott slid in for Middlesbrough's third. It seemed that would not be enough, however, until Maccarone's late intervention sent the Riverside stadium into raptures.