Middlesbrough completed one of the most improbable comebacks in UEFA Cup history… again. Heading into the match ‘Boro were a goal down to Steaua Bucharest and then 3-0 down 25 minutes into the second leg. But with the Riverside behind them, the English club responded with four goals to advance to the UEFA Cup finals 4-3 on aggregate, repeating a feat they accomplished in the quarterfinals! It will be Middlesbrough’s first ever European final.
Middlesbrough 4, Steaua Bucharest 2
Middlesbrough advance to the UEFA Cup finals 4-3 on aggregate
In the quarterfinals Middlesbrough pulled off a similar Houdini trick, when they also overturned a 3-0 deficit to see off Basel.
On this night, Nicolae Dica (16′) and Dorin Goian (24′) stunned the home crowd as the Romanian outfit sprang to a 3-0 aggregate lead and the advantage of two away goals. Massimo Maccarone pulled one back before halftime for Middlesbrough, though, setting up a wild second half.
With the stadium pulsating, Mark Viduka headed home Middlesbrough’s second goal to make the match score 2-2 and the aggregate 3-2 in favor of the Romanians. However, ‘Boro needed to win by two goals to advance.
When Chris Riggott pounced on a rebound to bring the match score to 3-2 and the aggregate at 3-3, the anticipation reached a fever pitch.
In an eerie repeat of when he scored the winning goal against Bases (in the 90th minute), Maccarone answered the prayers of the home fans with a fourth and decisive Middlesbrough goal in the 89th minute to complete an improbable turn of events where ‘Boro overturned a 3-0 deficit with four goals in less than an hour.