by Ken Gaunt of "Press Association"
Fabrizio Ravanelli wasted no time in repaying a huge chunk of his £7 million transfer fee with a stunning hat-trick on his Premiership debut for Middlesbrough.
The former Juventus striker is reportedly earning £42,000 a week, but on the evidence of this display Teesside fans will believe the club have got great value for money.
Ravanelli struck twice in the first half, once from the penalty spot, and the Italian international completed his hat-trick with nine minutes to go.
That late strike gave Middlesbrough a point from an enthralling encounter in front of a record home crowd of 30,039.
Ravanelli was not the only Middlesbrough player making his debut. Brazilian Emerson, a £4 million buy from Porto, was drafted into midfield, but he struggled to make an impact. However, it said much for Middlesbrough's resilience that they were able to take something from the game, as they came from behind three times in the match.
Liverpool opened the scoring after just four minutes, when Stig Bjornebye powered the ball home after John Barnes had played a free kick into the Middlesbrough penalty area. Middlesbrough equalised after 27 minutes when Mark Wright and Jason McAteer both challenged Juninho. The Brazilian went down and referee Paul Alcock immediately awarded a penalty. Ravanelli powered an unstoppable shot into the corner and celebrated by pulling his shirt over his head.
Liverpool regained the lead on the half-hour when Barnes stole into the penalty area, chested the ball down and steered it home via a post. However, it took Middlesbrough only six minutes to get back into the game. Nick Barmby played a free kick down the line to Neil Cox and Ravanelli was on the spot in the area to steer the ball wide of keeper David James.
Liverpool looked to have sewn the game up in the 65th minute, when Middlesbrough's defending was again suspect. Bjornebye floated in a cross and Fowler, unmarked, swept the ball home. Ravanelli, however, had the last word with nine minutes to go when Juninho did well to win the ball off Steve McManaman. Robbie Mustoe was unable to get in a shot, but the ball broke to Ravanelli, who made no mistake.
The man known as 'The White Feather' almost got a fourth, but keeper James made a brave block from his close-range effort. Fabrizio Ravanelli left Middlesbrough tonight clutching the match ball and the number 11 shirt -- souvenirs from an extraordinary Premier debut. The £7 million Italian import marked his debut by scoring a hat-trick in a thrilling 3-3 draw with Liverpool. The former Juventus striker said: "I am very happy and honoured to keep the ball and the shirt. I will put them alongside my trophies."
Manager Bryan Robson said: "Another six of them will do."
Ravanelli scored twice in the first half, one from the penalty spot, and brought Middlesbrough level nine minutes from time with his third goal. It was the second time he had marked his debut for a club with a treble. He previously performed the feat for Serie B side Reggiana when they played Verona. He added: "I dedicate my goals to the other players in the team. They are more important than me. It was a very interesting day and it would have been much better if we had won. The difference in Italy and in England is that teams here go for a win. I never put a target on how many goals I will score. I am a professional and the goals will come."
But bookmakers William Hill were impressed, slashing Ravanelli's odds to 10-1 from 33-1 for him to be the Premiership's top scorer. Robson said: "Ravanelli can't have a better start than that but don't expect it every week. It is only his third match and he is still finding his fitness. It was a great start for him and will do his confidence a power of good."
Ravanelli's penalty goal angered Liverpool manager Roy Evans, who claimed they should have had one when John Barnes was bundled over. The Anfield boss said: "I hope you don't have to be a foreigner to win penalties. Barnes was clearly pulled back." Evans added: "You have got to give Ravanelli his due. He was very lively but the last goal was dreadful. We could have cleared it three times. I feel we might have closed the game down more than we did. I would rather we win one nil and dour."
Ravanelli paid tribute to Anfield skipper Barnes, saying: "I felt he was outstanding. Liverpool never give the ball away."
Copyright - Press Association
Press' Liverpool man of the match awards
The Sunday Mirror: John Barnes and Mark Wright (8/10).
The People: Stig Inge Bjornebye (9/10).
The Liverpool Echo: Stig Inge Bjornebye.
90 Minutes: Mark Wright.