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Last Updated: Saturday, 11 August 2007, 15:56 GMT 16:56 UK
Middlesbrough 1-2 Blackburn
Santa Cruz levelled for Rovers
Santa Cruz levelled within minutes of his arrival
Blackburn substitutes Roque Santa Cruz and Matt Derbyshire inspired them to an opening day win at Middlesbrough.

Stewart Downing gave Boro the lead when his free-kick found a gap in the wall and beat Brad Friedel at his near post.

Blackburn lost last season's top scorer Benni McCarthy in the second half in what looked to be a serious injury.

But Santa Cruz climbed magnificently to meet a David Bentley cross and plant a fine header past Mark Schwarzer, before Derbyshire curled in a stunning winner.

Derbyshire and Santa Cruz started the game on the bench as Blackburn boss Mark Hughes opted to stick with McCarthy and Jason Roberts up front.

But Santa Cruz was given his chance just before the hour mark when McCarthy was stretchered off after taking a blow while challenging for a long ball into the box.

The South African got up but after taking a few steps he appeared to collapse to the ground.


He received immediate medical attention, with the Blackburn physio making sure he had not swallowed his tongue.

The striker was given oxygen and put in a neck brace, and several minutes passed before he was eventually taken off.

Blackburn's immediate concerns will be for McCarthy, who was taken to hospital after the game for checks.

But Hughes will be delighted with the initial impact of Santa Cruz, who livened up Rovers' attacking impetus after coming on.

Until his arrival Middlesbrough had looked the livelier of the two sides, with Jeremie Aliadiere impressing on his debut.

Aliadiere almost got on the end of a Tuncay Sanli centre after Yakubu had broken quickly early in the game at the Riverside.

He was brilliantly denied by a late intervention from Rovers midfielder Robbie Savage.

But Savage appeared to be partly at fault for Boro's opener, with Friedel unhappy with the gap in the wall left by him and team-mate Morten Gamst Pedersen that allowed Downing's whipped free-kick to beat him at his near post.

Boro could have increased their lead through David Wheater, who was a major source of worry for Blackburn in the air and twice came close to only a second goal for the Teessiders.

He was denied by a fine stop from Friedel and also saw an effort off his shoulder fly just wide.

Stewart Downing scored from a direct free-kick
Downing scored from a direct free-kick but to no avail
A frustrated Hughes was given a talking to by referee Andre Marriner as his side struggled to get into the match.

That all changed when Cruz entered the game.

Bentley, who had been kept in check by Andrew Taylor, teased his opponent before curling a right-wing cross into the area for Santa Cruz to rise and powerfully head past Schwarzer.

It got even better when Derbyshire brilliantly scored with his first touch.

He picked up the ball on the edge of the area and instinctively curled a shot round Schwarzer and into the top corner.

Boro threw away a 2-0 lead at Reading at the start of last season and have won only once in 12 opening day Premier League games.

They almost snatched an equaliser when Wheater again outjumped the Blackburn defence late in the game, but Friedel came to their rescue by saving with his legs.

  • Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate:
    "For a long period thought we were on course to win it. After the McCarthy injury there was a long stoppage and we seemed to lose a bit of momentum.

    "They scored two top-quality finishes but we still kept coming back and when the chance in the last minute did not go in you just think this is not going to be our day.

    "I'm not down though because we showed a lot of promise against a good and experienced side but it is a bit like air being let out of a balloon - we are deflated."

  • Blackburn manager Mark Hughes:
    "We got word when we were in the dressing room that Benni is OK.

    "There was a concern when he went off - after the initial impact he was able just to walk off and then he passed out.

    "There was genuine concern at seeing a player being taken off on a stretcher with his neck in a brace."

    Middlesbrough: Schwarzer, Davies, Riggott, Wheater, Taylor, Sanli (Johnson 85), Arca (Cattermole 88), Boateng, Downing, Yakubu, Aliadiere (Lee 84).
    Subs Not Used: Jones, Hines.

    Booked: Wheater, Boateng, Downing.

    Goals: Downing 31.

    Blackburn: Friedel, Ooijer, Samba, Nelsen, Warnock, Bentley, Dunn (Mokoena 90), Savage, Pedersen, McCarthy (Santa Cruz 60), Roberts (Derbyshire 78).
    Subs Not Used: Brown, Kerimoglu.

    Booked: Pedersen, Samba, Savage, Derbyshire.

    Goals: Santa Cruz 63, Derbyshire 79.

    Att: 25,058.

    Ref: Andre Marriner (W Midlands).

    Saturday's football photos
    11 Aug 07 |  Premier League
    Live - Premier League
    11 Aug 07 |  Premier League


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