REPORT: BORO 2-1 CARDIFF
Cardiff City produced a spirited performance on Teeside, but a late Kenwyne Jones header was not enough to prevent Middlesbrough collecting all three points.
City looked comfortable for large parts of the game at the Riverside, a stadium where Boro had mustered a ten game unbeaten run and had already picked up 25 League points. After being the better side for large parts of the first half and starting the second half the brighter of the two teams, the Bluebirds were undone by Patrick Bamford who gave Boro the lead. With their tails up, the advantage was doubled by Lee Tomlin, the midfielder scoring his third goal in two games. Kenwyne Jones’ header gave City the chance of fighting for a point in the 85th minute, but Middlesbrough stayed resilient to record a 2-1 victory.
First Half Fight
Middlesbrough very nearly started the game in the exact same way as they did back in September, when Kike had given Karanka’s men the lead after two minutes at Cardiff City Stadium. This time the ball just evaded the Spanish striker as he was about to pull the trigger from close range in the opening exchanges.
After quarter of an hour the home fans appealed for a spot kick as Kike went to ground after what he claimed to be a trip by City stopper Simon Moore. The Bluebirds players shook their heads and to the delight of the travelling Cardiff fans so did referee Geoff Eltringham. No foul given.
Patrick Bamford was at the heart of much of Boro’s attacking chances and caused problems down the right flank. He produced a number of dangerous crosses, but Ben Turner’s defence stayed strong.
Cardiff looked dangerous on the break, Alex Revell winning balls in the air and the pace of Craig Noone and Kadeem Harris keeping the Boro backline on their toes. The combination of Noone and Revell almost came to fruition just after the half hour mark when a perfectly weighted nod by the former Rotherham front man fell to the onrushing Noone. The resulting shot though, was dealt with comfortably by Dimi Konstontopoulos.
Against The Grain
A strong 45 minute display was followed by a bright start after the break, Russell Slade’s side winning the lion’s share of the ball in a fierce midfield battle. Then on 55 minutes controversy, as Adam Clayton flew into a challenge with Revell. The former Huddersfield man appeared to go in two footed and as the official reached into his pocket, many were waiting for a red card to be shown; but it was a yellow that came, much to the dismay of the City players.
Cardiff continued to press forward and, as confidence grew, committed more men in attack. But on 63 minutes after soaking up pressure, Boro broke. Tricky wide man Adam Reach fizzed a ball across Moore’s goalmouth for Patrick Bamford to stroke home, and the Teesiders went one up against the run of play - the Chelsea loan man adding a ninth goal to his tally.
Both sides created chances over the course of the following 15 minutes, Gunnarsson’s long throw continuing to cause problems. At the other end, Simon Moore was called into action and produced a fine one-handed save to ensure Kike didn’t double his side's lead.
But Moore could only prevent for a further four minutes as Middlesbrough scored a second, almost identical to their first. Reach once again got to the byline and produced a good cross from the left, and this time it was Lee Tomlin who guided the shot home from inside the area.
Inspired substitutions from Russell Slade gave City a chance of travelling back to Wales with something to show for their efforts, as Kenwyne Jones halved the deficit with six minutes of time left to play. Joe Ralls dispossessed Albert Adomah with a perfectly timed sliding challenge and then curled a beautiful delivery into the area where Cardiff’s big Trinidadian headed home. Both had been brought on by the Bluebirds manager in the second half, each clearly intent on staking their claim for a place in Saturday's FA Cup tie at home to Reading. As for this one, Middlesbrough took the spoils despite a heartening City display.
FINAL SCORE: MIDDLESBROUGH (Bamford, 63; Tomlin, 78) 2-1 CARDIFF CITY (Jones, 84)