Wembley dream still alive

Gianfranco Zola said his team remain confident of reaching the FA Cup quarter-finals despite having to come from behind for a 1-1 fifth-round draw against Middlesbrough on Saturday.

The manager agreed with his opposite number Gareth Southgate that neither side had quite done enough for victory on a day when Stewart Downing gave the visitors a first-half lead before Herita Ilunga headed an equaliser with seven minutes to play. The two sides will do battle again at the Riverside on Tuesday week with the draw to determine the next round opponents being held on Sunday evening.


"It was a deserved draw but at the same time it was a relief as well with the way the game was going," Zola said. "I was afraid that we were not going to score. At the end of the day it was a fair result. They played a good match and deserved to get a draw and we didn't deserve to lose so a draw was the fair result.

"The replay is not great news but it is OK. We are going to try to have what we didn't have today over there. It's going to be tough but we are determined to go through." The early signs are that Carlton Cole's first-half ankle injury that caused his substitution is not too serious while the "important" Valon Behrami should also be available having missed out with a minor hamstring problem.

It had been a "strange week" for the coaching staff with several players away on international duty but the manager was not making too much of that or focusing overly on any injury hassles. "The first 15 minutes was one of the worst 15 minutes we have played recently. Not as near as our standards. After that we started to pick it up and had a few good chances.

"You can't afford not to play at high levels. Boro were very well organised and they caused us a lot of problems. But it is OK as it was a good lesson for us and we have had lots of compliments and today we learnt that if we want to keep it that way then we need to pick up our standards and we cannot drop anything … I'm 100 per cent sure next week we will be better.

"Today the quality wasn't quite right, I had the feeling the body was there but the mind wasn't. there. It's understandable. For me it is really important that we didn't lose . Three months ago we would have lost easily. I am pleased because at least they show that they didn't want to lose."

He also had a word for a couple of individuals, not least goalscorer Ilunga who he reiterated "is going to stay with us for a long time". He added: "He is playing well. I don't think there are many left-backs playing as well as he is now. He is very good defensively but also very good coming forward."

Luis Boa Morte was also in the manager's thoughts, not just because of a possible torn hamstring that could sideline him for some time but also for his attitude when unfairly singled out by some for criticism. "Luis Boa Morte has been a fantastic professional and every time he has played he has done his job.

"He is incredible in the changing room and he is one of the players that every manager would want to have. I don't think he deserves the supporters picking on him, it also makes it more difficult for him. [That he did not leave] is more proof that he cares about what he is doing here. He wanted to stay and prove to be useful for the cause. He's got all my respect."