BUCHAREST -- Two fine saves from Middlesbrough goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer kept his side in contention as Steaua Bucharest edged the first leg of their UEFA Cup semi-final tie 1-0 on Thursday.
Schwarzer stopped a fierce volley from Dorin Goian and a close-range Nicolae Dica effort early in the second half after Dica had given the home side a 30th-minute lead to the joy of the 47,000 crowd.
Dica turned smartly on the edge of the area and blasted home past Schwarzer for Steaua's first goal in four home matches.
"The 1-0 defeat is not a bad result," Middlesbrough coach Steve McClaren said. "We are even delighted with it, because it could have been worse."
The visitors, missing injured striker Mark Viduka and captain Gareth Southgate, created few chances, but will be happy to have kept the scoreline down ahead of the second leg at the Riverside stadium next Thursday.
"At home, it will be another atmosphere and a different match," McClaren said.
Dica's opener prompted a sharp reaction from Middlesbrough. Yakubu Aiyegbeni headed against the crossbar and a shot from James Morrison forced Steaua's Portuguese keeper Carlos Fernandes into action.
Steaua played better in the second half and put the visitors' goal under pressure but Dica and central defender Goian failed to find the target.
"Before the match I would have been very content with a 1-0 win, but now the victory has a bitter taste," Steaua coach Cosmin Olaroiu said.
Twenty minutes from time, Schwarzer dropped the ball after he collided with Matthew Bates but Goian again failed to score with the goal in front of him.
A late shot from Middlesbrough substitute Massimo Maccarone gave Steaua a scare when Carlos caught the ball at the second attempt.
Steaua midfielders Sorin Paraschiv and Banel Nicolita were booked and will miss the second leg.
"We lost two important players," Olaroiu said. "Nicolita would have been the perfect player for counter-attack in the second leg. But Steaua still has solutions."
The other semi-final first leg between Schalke 04 and Sevilla ended 0-0.