Three days after joining Middlesbrough, Faris Haroun stepped off the substitutes' bench to bewitch his new public and thoroughly bewilder Birmingham.
Quite apart from looking the best player on the pitch Haroun, a 6ft 2in Belgium playmaker freshly arrived on a free transfer from Beerschot in Antwerp, scored one goal and created another as Tony Mowbray's fast-evolving young side climbed to third in the Championship.
By the end it seemed hard to remember that before Haroun's post-interval advent, they had fallen behind to Chris Hughton's initially highly organised team. "We started flat, a bit sloppy," Mowbray said. "But then Faris came on and gave them problems. It looks like he's going to adapt quickly."
Birmingham had their very own Rooney to thank for opening the scoring as Adam Rooney – no relation to Wayne – converted a penalty. It came after Carl Ikeme, Middlesbrough's goalkeeper, was perceived to have fouled the dangerous Christopher Burke as they challenged for a loose ball following Ikeme's failure to hold Jonathan Spector's long-range shot. Once the referee had booked Ikeme, Rooney seamlessly dispatched his kick into the bottom corner.
That lead was slightly harsh on Mowbray's sweet-passing players. Yet while Scott McDonald, Marvin Emnes and the impressive Barry Robson forced Boaz Myhill into decent first-half saves, only Emnes seemed capable of producing the sort of coruscating change of pace capable of truly fazing Hughton's defence.
Everything changed once Mowbray introduced Boro's first Belgian at the start of the second half. It meant a switch from 4-4-2 to 4-4-1-1, with Haroun in the hole, but by the 48th minute Boro were level. That equaliser came courtesy of a low free-kick from Robson awarded in the wake of Curtis Davies's foul on Emnes which, having taken a deflection off the wall, wrongfooted Myhill, who proved powerless to hold it as it crept over the line via the inside of a post.
With Haroun far from averse to dropping deep and dispossessing opponents, Birmingham became confused. It took a decent Davies block to deny Haroun a dinked goal but a debut strike was coming. Sure enough it arrived, albeit accompanied by a whiff of offside, when the newcomer stabbed the ball home from six yards following Joe Bennett's deflected pass.
Haroun then helped extend the lead, conjuring his fellow substitute Malaury Martin to score Boro's sublime third goal, namely a scorching, dipping strike from just outside the area which flew into the top corner. Released by Blackpool after spending last season recovering from a cruciate-ligament injury, Martin looks another shrewd, imaginative acquisition on the part of a manager forced to work within the tightest of budgets.
Fatigue proved a problem for Hughton as a team tired by a long flight back from Madeira following Thursday night's Europa League tie against Nacional during the early hours of Friday, ultimately faded. "It's been a tough week," said Hughton, who, perhaps significantly, left his much coveted centre-half Scott Dann on the bench. "But Middlesbrough are a very good footballing side. There's a real freshness about them."
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010