BORO'S Brazilian out-shone Robinho as he nailed his place in the history books. Afonso Alves - a comparative cut-price signing at just £12.7m - took charge in a moment of collective hesitation over the penalty and shrugged off the claims of regular taker Stewart Downing and eager beaver Tuncay to grab the ball and stroke home a delightful spot-kick. It was Boro's 6,000th league goal.
It would have been nice had the landmark goal gone to a local lad but had Stewie stepped up would he have scored? And what would have been the impact on his seemingly fragile confidence and popular support if he had missed it?
It was a cracking penalty and that naturally raised the question of where we would be now if Alves had been taking them from the off. The Stoke match would have been wrapped up far earlier and the Sunderland game would almost certainly have been won. Boro would have been three points better off now and without the post-Mackem dip in morale the outlook may now have been far sunnier.
It was nice to see Alves be assertive over the penalty, although the potential was always there for a repeat of the Bernie Slaven scenario where he wrestled the ball off Gary Parkinson against Ipswich then missed! His hunger for the ball and willingness to accept the pressure that comes from the spot suggests his own confidence is flooding back after his excellent strike at Blackburn.
The goal was the 6,000th in the league. In a perfect world the milestone would have been Tuncay's perfectly good - nay, fantastic - overhead kick at Blackburn, although if we go down that route we could be here for some time quibbling over football's equivalent of quantum physics and chaos theory. Whatever, that makes Alves an indelible part of our club's long history. Or at the very least, the answer to a question in the Gazette's Christmas quiz.
The land-marks up to now:
The 1st league goal: Bob Page in a 3-1 defeat at Burslam Port Vale in division two on Sept 4 1899
1,000th: Andy Wilson, as part of a hat-trick in a 3-2 division one home win over West Brom on Sept 3, 1921.
2,000th: Bob Baxter, a consolation in a 4-2 division one away defeat at Birmingham on February 6, 1935
3,000th: Billy Day, the opener in a 2-1 division two reverse at Rotherham on April 3, 1956
4,000th: Willie Maddren in a 3-2 division two home defeat to Bury on April 12, 1969
5,000th: Bernard Joseph Slaven, the opener in a 1-1 top flight draw at Wimbledon on March 25, 1989.
Briefly on the game.... academy lad Wheater had Robinho in his pocket... it may or may not have been a penalty but hey, we were due a break... Tuncay is brilliant and it is no coincidence that Boro's dip in form and results have come when the Turk has been sidelined. He is the one that links the forward movement of the midfield with the front man, the one who drops deep to pick up passes, makes magical runs that pull defences apart for Alves or Aliadiere to burst through, who does the unpredictable but allies it to prodigious work-rate; he is the main man. Who needs Juninho?... Ross Turnbull continues to grow in stature and confidence and has the priceless, uncoachable asset of a little bit of luck... cracking atmosphere at times... some comedy refereeing that stoked the temperature up... excellent displays by the often derided midfield dynamo Gary O'Neil and Jeremie Aliadiere... a renewed discipline and solidity at the back... a risky decision to give Julio Arca a run out that led to a laughable first five minutes before he played two sublime balls... and how good is it to score a goal deep, deep, deep into stoppage time?
5,000 goal was scored by Bernie Slaven