Cardiff City smuggled a nail-biting win over promotion chasing Middlesbrough last night, as late drama saw the Welsh side leave victorious. In a game that proves a huge blow to Boro, who now tinker on the edge of dropping out of the play-off places.
After suffering the heartbreak of defeat under Wembley’s arch in May, Middlesbrough went into this campaign hungry to avenge their play-off final agony.
The north-east side are managed by ex-Real Madrid defender Aitor Karanka and spectacularly pulled off the signing of Stewart Downing in the summer. Having come so close last term and making some notable additions to the squad, Middlesbrough were seen as one of the promotion favourites.
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Going into their game with Cardiff City this week, this confidence was reaffirmed as Karanka’s men sat an impressive third in the table. However, a stale 0-0 draw with mid-table Fulham had left a bitter taste in the mouth as the Reds made the journey to Wales’ capital.
Middlesbrough started the game weakly and Cardiff created the better chances despite having less possession. The away side hadn’t scored in their last two games and Albert Adomah’s feeble header was their best opportunity over the half.
Karanka’s side made noticeable improvements in the second half as the Bluebirds’ creativity declined. Cardiff had to be thankful for the exploits of David Marshall as his acrobatic stop from Grant Leadbitter kept the game goalless.
However, for all of Middlesbrough’s tireless effort, the Premier League hopefuls suffered heartbreak in amongst a goal mouth scramble as Cardiff nicked the win.
Joe Mason fizzed a cross into the Boro area that Dimitrios Konstantopoulos couldn’t hold, with the ball deflecting into the bewildered George Friend. A swarm of Cardiff players reeled off celebrating as the away defenders tried to re-gather themselves after a hectic few seconds of penalty area pinball.
The final whistle saw Cardiff’s 1-0 win confirmed and albeit the magnitude of the victory, only 13,371 bore witness to it. in The game proved the club’s lowest attendance since moving to the ground in 2009.
As for Middlesbrough, the desperately unlucky George Friend simply proved in the wrong place at the wrong time as the agonizing defeat sees them tumble down to sixth.
Aitor Karanka and his players face a tricky trip to Molineux at the weekend and according to the BBC, he isn’t confident that the club will be able to turn their form around. Having not scored in the past three games, the Spaniard said: "With the players we have up front it's difficult to understand, it's my fault."
It proves uncomfortable reading for Middlesbrough fans and only Saturday will tell whether this stagnant form will continue for the Teeside club.