• FT

    Fulham

    1

    Chelsea

    2

  • FT

    Arsenal

    2

    West Ham

    0

  • FT

    Man Utd

    1

    Birmingham

    0

  • FT

    Middlesboro

    0

    Everton

    2

  • FT

    Reading

    0

    Portsmouth

    2

  • FT

    Aston Villa

    2

    Tottenham

    1

BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE

The Riverside Stadium, England

Attendance: 27028

* Local time based on your geographic location.

0 - 2

FT

Everton

  • Andrew Johnson 67'
  • James McFadden 72'

Middlesbrough 0-2 Everton: Boro lack finesse

Two fine goals from Andrew Johnson and James McFadden proved the difference in Everton's 2-0 victory over Middlesbrough at the Riverside which kept the Toffees' European ambitions on track.

Boro had the best of the play for much of the match but were too often let down by a lack of composure in the final third, with England winger Stewart Downing particularly culpable.

Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard's inspiring stop from Gary O'Neil set the tone for the visitors' victory, with Johnson and McFadden each taking full advantage to record their fifth goals of the season.

• Moyes dismisses top four talk

The opening stages were scrappy, with the driving rain helping neither side find a foothold.

Johnson was booked after just three minutes for an indiscreet challenge, but Ayegbeni Yakubu - roundly booed with every touch on his first return to the ground since leaving to join David Moyes' side - escaped the same fate despite a reckless lunge at Luke Young.

The hosts had a fine chance after eight minutes, with Dong Gook Lee breaking into the Everton box. Howard's sliding stop saw the ball drop to Downing 20 yards out, but with the goalkeeper out of position, he failed to get away a shot away in time and his eventual attempt was tame.

There were niggling fouls at both ends of the pitch as each side scrambled to assert themselves, but there was precious little quality.

For Everton's part, the absence of the cultured Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta in midfield.

Downing showed signs of life down the left for Boro, but his final ball was consistently poor.

McFadden, meanwhile, attempted another of his now-trademark long-range efforts but had to settle for a corner as his scuffed drive took a deflection and trickled past the post.

Arca, named Boro captain in place of regular skipper George Boateng, then gave the ball away with the sloppiest of passes, only to be bailed out by Fabio Rochemback and Tuncay Sanli.

After 29 minutes a flash of inspiration from Rochemback nearly broke the stalemate.

He feigned to cross from the right but instead lifted the ball delicately into the path of the overlapping Young.

The full-back's flighted centre found Downing at the far post and his side-footed volley looked to be going in before what seemed to be the slightest touch from Phil Jagielka on the line.

Tuncay, largely quiet despite going into the match with four goals in his last six games, then produced his own party-trick, sending the defence the wrong way with an impudent back-heel.

Again Downing was on the end. but his cross was dealt with easily.

The second half was less than a minute old when Tuncay was presented with the best chance yet.

O'Neil bullied his way into the penalty area, holding off two challenges before playing the ball hard into the six-yard box.

The Turkey striker was in the right place but could not react quickly enough and the ball merely cannoned off his leg, leaving Howard with a simple save.

There were warnings too from Everton.

First a neat back-heel from Steven Pienaar presented Yakubu with his first shooting chance - one that he spurned with a wild shot over the crossbar - and then a flighted free-kick from deep was punched clumsily by Mark Schwarzer to concede a corner.

It was left to Howard to produce a piece of goalkeeping that was memorable for all the right reasons.

After good vision from Arca, the American charged to the near post but was beaten by the advancing Tuncay.

His shot was headed clear by Joleon Lescott, but when O'Neil lined up the rebound from eight yards, the goalkeeper was still some distance away and it took a brilliant, instinctive save to keep the ball out.

Johnson took full advantage after 66 minutes.

Pienaar did well to bring down a curling pass into the box and release the England striker to his right.

Johnson peeled away from Robert Huth and dragged a powerful shot low across Schwarzer and into the bottom-left corner.

Boro were nearly caught by a sucker-punch four minutes later, Lee Carsley curling his shot narrowly wide as they committed too many men to attack.

And, sure enough, it was 2-0 soon afterwards.

With 18 minutes left McFadden and the revitalised Johnson broke at pace, sharing a measured one-two in the penalty box to free the Scotland international.

He showed some silky close control as he ghosted into the danger area and stroked home with his left foot, keeping his side well on course for the UEFA Cup in the process.

  • Moyes dismisses top four talk

    Everton manager David Moyes played down talk of a top-four finish for his side after their 2-0 Premier League at Middlesbrough, insisting he would be content to be in the top half by May.

    Boro had enjoyed the lion's share of what had been a scrappy encounter but

    their failure to convert possession into goals cost them.

    Everton, on the other hand, had looked distinctly off colour before hitting

    back clinically with two goals inside eight minutes.

    Andrew Johnson fired home the first after 66 minutes before linking well with

    James McFadden who doubled the lead with a cool finish 18 minutes from time.

    But despite moving to fifth with the result, Moyes does not want to overplay

    the significance of making the Champions League - something he has already

    achieved with the Toffees in 2005.

    'When we did it before everybody told us it was a fluke, so we'll have to see

    if we can change that,' Moyes said.

    'But the competition above us is very high. We're not kidding ourselves,

    finishing in the top 10 of the Premier League this season could be a big job,

    nevermind the top four.'

    Last time the Toffees reached such heights they beat city rivals Liverpool

    into fifth but Moyes insists knocking the Reds out of the Champions League - a

    fate they avoided last time as European champions - is not a motivation.

    'We'd be happy to edge anybody out - it doesn't matter if it's Liverpool or

    anyone else.

    'But the boys are playing well and they've played well all over Christmas so

    this result was very important.'

    The Scot was also delighted by the way his responded to a host of absences -

    including midfield playmakers Tim Cahill (knee) and Mikel Arteta, who served the

    first of a three-match ban against Boro.

    'We've no Cahill, no (Joseph) Yobo or (Leon) Osman and Thomas Gravesen is

    injured.

    'Coming here without all those players shows we've not been too affected by

    the last game (a 4-1 defeat to Arsenal).

    'We came here with just about no midfield. Our only recognised midfield

    players were Lee Carsley and Steven Pienaar.

    'It shows the strength in depth and what we have got here. The players who

    came in were fantastic.'

    Boro boss Gareth Southgate admitted the psychological blow of having shots

    cleared off the line twice before going behind - Stewart Downing was denied by

    Phil Jagielka and Tuncay Sanli by Joleon Lescott - took its effect on his ailing

    side.

    'As is often the case with games at the end of the Christmas period, the

    first goal has a massive influence,' said Southgate.

    'If we'd have got it, and we had two cleared off the line, it would have been

    a huge lift, an extra boost.

    'But they got it and they energy drained away.

    'We weren't quite at our best but I can't fault what they've given.

    'There wasn't the freshness to win the game. They're out on their feet and

    they must be feeling like every time they take a step forward a door slams in

    their face.'

  • Scoring Summary

    • Middlesbrough
    • Everton
     

    Match Stats

    • Middlesbrough
    • Everton
    7(4) Shots (on goal) 5(3)
    18 Fouls 11
    5 Corner kicks 6
    3 Offsides 1
    45% Time of Possession 55%
    0 Yellow Cards 1
    0 Red Cards 0
    4 Saves 4

    Teams

    • Middlesbrough
    • Everton
    Substitutes
    Substitutions
    Yellow Cards