Saturday, 16 May 2015

Wembley Beckons For Boro

Middlesbrough    3        Brentford    0 
                           Tomlin  24 Kike  55
                                 Adomah  78
When you flick back through the recent history of Middlesbrough Football Club there are certain games which will live long in the memory, from their League Cup Final victory in 2004 to the memorable European nights from nine years ago, even so few could deny that yesterday’s play-off triumph over Brentford was something very special indeed.

Middlesbrough's Kike celebrates with Middlesbrough's Lee Tomlin
Kike celebrates Boro's second goal of the night
Not since the likes of Basel and Steaua Bucharest visited Teesside, where Boro stood pound for pound with the rest of Europe, has the Riverside been this vibrant. They knew the prize at stake, and now a place back in the Premier League is just one match away.

This was by no means a done deal and despite leading by 2 goals to 1 after the first leg at Brentford, Boro had to earn their place at Wembley in eight days’ time. Lee Tomlin’s audacious strike from the edge of the box on 24 minutes settled a few nerves, 10 minutes after the restart Spanish striker Kike made things safe with a second, before Albert Adomah reeled off with a third.       

It was a night which spoke volumes about the work done by manager Aitor Karanka, who has rejuvenated a club which has spent six years away from the top division. His efforts haven’t gone unnoticed, the Spaniard’s name was chanted constantly by packed out Riverside, as was chairman’s Steve Gibson whose commitment to getting the club back in the Premier League has never been in doubt.    

They’re now just one game away from securing a life back in the big time and Teesside well and truly believe that they will. It’s been too long since the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea have visited the Riverside, which has been a fortress for Boro this campaign; losing there just three times all season.

One guarantee is that Aitor Karanka’s side will compete at Wembley Stadium in the play-off final in a week’s time against either Ipswich or Norwich who do battle in their second leg later this afternoon.

Not that Karanka will be too concerned about the opposition; his main task will be to prepare his players in the best way possible, not least top scorer Patrick Bamford who started on the bench due to an ongoing ankle injury.

That was the only difference from the side which started at Griffin Park in the first leg as Kike was preferred upfront. Brentford manager Mark Warburton, who was in charge of his last game at the club before he leaves in the summer, must have been similarly happy with his side’s performance a week ago, as he selected the same 11 players from that game.

Even before kick-off the persistent chats from the home fans were in full swing, and the word “believe” covered the North stand from the red and white cards which had been provided on seats before kick-off.  

It was a sight to behold even if the football was a little cagey early on. That didn’t matter as every tackle, every corner or every blade of grass covered by a Middlesbrough player was celebrated like a goal.

Brentford did what they could to try and take the edge off proceedings by retaining large amounts of possession. But as we’ve seen in the past, that doesn’t always win football matches and Boro keeper Dimi Konstantopulos barely had a save to make.

Like the first leg they picked up a few bookings in the process, as Adam Clayton and Dean Whitehead were shown the yellow card, you wouldn’t expect anything less in a game of this magnitude.  Brentford players protested and at times they had a point, on other occasions they could have been a little stronger, football is a contact sport after all.   

However they could have no complaints about Boro’s opener, Clayton’s swooping pass to the right picked out Adomah who jinked inside of his defender before teeing up Tomlin. Those being hypercritical could have pointed to the fact he was allowed too much space on the edge of the area. In truth few could have prevented the swift touch produced to get the ball out of his feet before the curling shot which pinged in off the post, giving keeper David Button no chance.

Brentford’s only real chances fell to striker Andre Gray, who this time last year was playing his football in the conference. Nevertheless he couldn’t add a 19th goal of the season to his tally, after a weak header on 41 minutes was comfortably held by Konstantopulos. Minutes later Gray failed to make contact with Moses Odubajo’s low cross, those chances aside the striker lacked service for most of the night.

In contrast Boro’s frontline were given plenty to feed off and delivered 10 minutes after the restart. Tomlin turned provider as he threaded a well-weighted pass through to Jelle Vossen, who with defenders around him hustled to get the ball under control. After assessing his options he finally set up Kike whose first touch took him into a shooting position where he couldn’t miss the target.

Jubilant scenes followed, the task was almost complete. But there was more to come 12 minutes from time, as Tomlin, Vossen and Adomah combined to create a tika-taka like goal inside to Brentford penalty area. It finished with an Adomah side foot off the underside of the bar, which found the net and sparked the sarcastic chants “we only score from set pieces” aimed towards Brentford defender Harlee Dean who had been made to eat his words.

The visitors went close to a consolation but substitute Jon Torel slide his effort wide. But this was Boro’s night, Boro’s dream and Boro’s journey to Wembley. The history books may have to be updated in a week’s time, the glory days may not be too far away.  

Player Ratings

Dimi Konstantopulos   6.5- Had a few routine saves to make

George Friend   7.5- As passionate as ever running up and down the left flank

Daniel Ayala   7- Took no chances at the back, in truth didn’t have a great deal to do

Ben Gibson   7- Read the game well to stifle the Brentford attack  

Dean Whitehead   7- reliable and calm head, made the right decisions nothing too complicated.

Adam Clayton   8- Obtained loose balls and rarely misplaced a pass, very tidy performance

Grant Leadbitter   8- Was box to box throughout the game winning tackles and holding midfield

Albert Adomah   8- Provided a great outlet on the right which Boro used affectively

Lee Tomlin   9- Was the catalyst behind Boro’s attack, scored stunning opener and was the main creator throughout  

Jelle Vossen   7.5- Another tireless performance leading the line

Kike   7.5- Held the ball up well and brought others into play, second goal sealed the tie


Adam Reach – Came on for the last 18 minutes, not enough time to give a fair rating

Adam Forshaw - Came on for the last 8 minutes, not enough time to give a fair rating

Jonathan Woodgate- Came on for the last minute, not enough time to give a fair rating

My Boro Man Of The Match: Lee Tomlin

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