Boss hails fight­ing team spirit

Middlesbrough Herald & Post - - SPORT -

STEVE Agnew be­lieves Leroy Sane went down “very eas­ily” for the cru­cial penalty that broke Boro’s hearts at the River­side Sta­dium on Sun­day.

Mid­dles­brough twice took the lead against Manch­ester City in a pul­sat­ing match full of in­ci­dent. But Pep Guardi­ola’s side hit back to level twice.

The flash­point hap­pened in the 67th minute when Marten de Roon was ad­judged to have tripped Leroy Sane in­side the penalty area. Re­plays showed min­i­mal con­tact, if any, and, af­ter the game, Agnew was asked if he felt a sense of injustice?

“Yes,” he an­swered. “I was dis­ap­pointed we didn’t see the game out, I thought the lads were ter­rific and de­served the three points.

“From where I was I didn’t think it was a penalty, I thought the player went down very, very eas­ily and look­ing at the ref­eree’s po­si­tion, was he in the cor­rect po­si­tion to give it?

From where I was, or cer­tainly the video that I’ve seen, it looked like he didn’t have a clear view and I think when you give them you have to be 100% cer­tain.”

Agnew was then asked if he’d spoke to ref­eree Kevin Friend about the penalty.

“No,” he said, “once it’s been given what I was re­ally pleased with was the re­ac­tion from the play­ers and the way they re­sponded for the rest of the game and to ob­vi­ously get the sec­ond goal.”

The Boro boss was quick to ex­on­er­ate de Roon, adding: “He’s a top pro­fes­sional, Marten, and on top of that he’s a very in­tel­li­gent boy and Marten, when he’s in the penalty area, is not one for mak­ing con­tact and I felt for Marten be­cause he was top class like all the play­ers were to­day.”

The 2-2 draw means Boro are six points adrift of fourth­bot­tom with just nine to play for against Chelsea, South- amp­ton and Liver­pool. How­ever, Agnew isn’t throw­ing in the towel.

“I’m very, very con­fi­dent we can get the results that we need,” he said. “I think the play­ers will take a lot of con­fi­dence from play­ing so well to­day go­ing into Chelsea.

“I think the per­for­mance to­day just showed the de­ter­mi­na­tion and the fight­ing spirit of the squad and the group of play­ers we’ve been work­ing with for the last few weeks and that was ev­i­dent against one of the top teams in the county.

“We will re­flect on the game and the feed­back from the coach­ing staff to the play­ers will be very, very pos­i­tive and we’ll look for­ward to Chelsea.”

On Ne­gredo, who was out­stand­ing against his for­mer club, added: “Al­varo has been very, very good all sea­son.

“His goal to­day tells you ev­ery­thing, left foot, strong, pow­er­ful, and he’s a big game player.”

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