CARDIFF – Middlesbrough won a major trophy for the first time in their 128-year history when they beat Bolton Wanderers 2-1 in the League Cup Final at the Millennium Stadium. Boro, who now qualify for the UEFA Cup, stung Bolton with two goals within seven minutes of the kick-off.
Cameroon striker Joseph-Desire Job tapped in Bolo Zenden’s cross three minutes in before man-of-the-match Zenden scored a dubious penalty after Job was felled four minutes later.
Kevin Davies pulled one back for Bolton on 21 minutes when Australia goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer’s dreadful misjudgment deflected a tame shot into his own net.
The victory meant Steve McClaren became the first English-born manager to lift a domestic honour since Brian Little’s Aston Villa won the League Cup eight years ago.
But Bolton boss Sam Allardyce slammed the performance of referee Mike Riley, saying the official had failed to spot that Zenden inadvertently kicked the ball twice when scoring his penalty and had also missed a hand-ball by Boro defender Ugo Ehiogu late on that cost his side a penalty.
Afterwards an elated McClaren said: “There were chances at either end but over the 90 minutes I thought we deserved it… The game hinged on Mark Schwarzer making a mistake but after that he made three fantastic saves which kept us in the game.
“Our defenders were magnificent. We could have scored more. But at the end of the day it’s a Cup final and we’ve won it.”
Meanwhile Allardyce said: “Zenden’s penalty, it should have been an indirect free-kick to us. I don’t want it to sound like sour grapes but it was a major incident in the game.
“In the second half, Ugo’s thrown everything at it, the ball has hit his hand and it was goalbound.
“Mike Riley has always been a poor referee for us and today he’s lived up to his reputation. But they (Middlesbrough) probably played the better football.”
Boro capitalised on a weak Bolton header out of defence to stun Bolton moments into the match.
Dutchman Zenden burst into the penalty box on the left and squared the ball for Job, running towards the far post. The Cameroon forward slid in to give the north-east side an early lead.
And just four minutes later, the same combination made it 2-0 after a debatable penalty decision.
Job received the ball from on-loan Chelsea winger Zenden on the edge of the penalty box and had the slightest tangle of legs with defender Emerson Thome as he turned.
Riley did not hesitate in awarding the spot-kick. Zenden hammered the penalty straight down the middle, but slipped while making contact and appeared to strike the ball twice.
Finland keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen got a foot to it as he dived leftwards, but could not prevent Boro going 2-0 up.
Just moments after Job’s opener, Youri Djorkaeff almost equalised with a rising shot that Schwarzer just managed to tip over.
However the Australia goalkeeper gifted Bolton a lifeline on 21 minutes with a woeful error.
After turning Franck Queudrue, Davies hit a hopeful shot from a wide angle that bobbled tamely towards Schwarzer’s near post. The save looked routine but the ball somehow deflected off the goalkeeper’s arm and into the net.
Schwarzer, however, redeemed himself with a clutch of fine saves.
After Per Frandsen hit the post with a curling shot beyond Schwarzer’s dive, Djorkaeff was first to the rebound and shot towards goal, but the keeper recovered to block the follow-up.
Boro’s Spanish midfielder Gaizka Mendieta should have scored just four minutes after the interval when Job played him clean through on goal.
However, with Zenden in place to tap in at the far post, Mendieta chipped his finish just over the bar.
Despite Nigeria’s African Nations Cup player of the tournament Jay-Jay Okocha and ex-Real Madrid player Ivan Campo directing operations in midfield, Bolton struggled to find any similarly easy opportunities.
Kevin Nolan, however, should have done better with a header on the hour mark that went straight to Schwarzer.
Former Bolton striker Michael Ricketts was booed when he replaced goalscorer Job with 25 minutes to go.
But the once-capped England striker sent 2002 World Cup winner Juninho through with another great opportunity for Boro to seal the victory.
The Brazilian overhit his effort, but despite even Jaaskelainen joining the Bolton attack in the dying minutes, Middlesbrough hung on to complete the greatest day in their history.