Eyebrows were raised in the summer when City paid Shakhtar Donetsk £6 million for Elano, the Brazilian midfield player, but he has not taken long to justify the price. His creativity has allowed a previously blunt City team to score nine goals in their past three outings and his two-goal display left Eriksson drooling.
The mercurial Brazillian leads the assist charts with Fabregas
“The big difference between him now and when he first arrived is his fitness,” Eriksson, the City manager, said. “He’s much stronger now and we don’t have to teach him how to play football. He won’t be able to keep this standard up all the time, but you are seeing the best of him at the moment. He can keep the ball, see things around him and is starting to score goals. You can’t ask for much more. He’s a top-class player.”
Mido, Lee Dong Gook and Jérémie Aliadière were ruled out for Middlesbrough before kick-off and Gareth Southgate, the manager, handed Tom Craddock, 21, his first Premier League start of the season.
His task as Middlesbrough’s lone forward appeared fruitless, though, when the home side took the lead inside ten minutes. Martin Petrov’s inswinging corner evaded Richard Dunne before striking the foot of the unfortunate Riggott, who steered the ball past Mark Schwarzer and into his own net.
It took a fine save from Joe Hart to prevent Lee Cattermole from equalising in the 30th minute with a diagonal header from Fabio Rochemback’s cross. It proved to be the turning point of the first half and, ultimately, the match. Three minutes later, City broke forward with pace once more, with Michael Johnson’s sublime backheel allowing Elano to drill a dipping drive past the diving Schwarzer into the bottom corner. Game over, not least because Middlesbrough had no stomach for the fight, despite the tenacity of Jonathan Woodgate. Even he was powerless to prevent Elano from scoring his second with a stunning free kick in the 63rd minute.
Ben Hutchinson, a second-half substitute, scored a consolation goal with a minute remaining, but City’s home league record now reads: played five, won five, nine goals scored and two conceded.