1...2...3..! LIFT-OFF FOR ROCKET VOSS
JELLE Vossen must think that goals are like the London buses that run in front of the Den – you wait an eternity for one to arrive, and then three come at once.
Vossen had made 12 appearances since joining Middlesbrough on a season-long loan from Belgian club Genk in the summer, and was still waiting for his first goal in English football when he kicked off against Millwall.
Forty-five minutes later, and he was celebrating a hat-trick at the end of a remarkably one-sided half that saw Boro score four goals without reply against a Millwall side that were unable to cope with their pace and movement in attack.
Patrick Bamford also found the target before the interval, and while former Boro striker Scott McDonald grabbed a second-half consolation for the hosts, Kike added a fifth to ensure Aitor Karanka’s side would be able to celebrate their biggest win of the season courtesy of comfortably their most eye-catching display.
Karanka said: “I’m very pleased, but not only because of the score, but also because of the performance and the reaction after everything that happened last week.
“We know how difficult it has been this week for us, but the reaction of the team was brilliant. The first half was perfect, but I told them at half-time that our biggest mistake would be to think that everything was done.
“We know how difficult it is to play here, but we kept going in the second half and created a lot of chances again. The final score could have been seven or eight, but the main thing was the performance and the reaction.”
Vossen should arguably have had a goal before he broke the deadlock as his sixth-minute header from Grant Leadbitter’s corner appeared to have crossed the line before it was clawed away by David Forde.
That effort was not given, but there was no doubting the validity of Vossen’s effort 15 minutes later as he outpaced the Millwall defence to reach Kenneth Omeruo’s ball before hooking a fantastic finish over Forde and into the corner of the net.
Bamford doubled Boro’s lead seven minutes later, taking the ball from Adam Reach and stepping inside an opposition defender before caressing a low finish past Forde.
Vossen’s second of the game followed shortly after, with the striker side-footing home after Reach teed him up following another defence-splitting long pass from Daniel Ayala.
Millwall were outplayed throughout the first half, and Vossen completed his hat-trick a minute before the break as he rolled the ball into an empty net after Bamford’s initial shot had been blocked.
McDonald’s consolation came with 12 minutes left, hammering the ball into the roof of the net, but Boro’s performance demanded they had the final say, and it arrived within a minute. Emilio Nsue pulled the ball back from the right-hand side, and substitute Kike drilled home a low finish via the base of the left-hand post.
Under Ian Holloway, Millwall are worse off than they were a year ago – currently 20th with 20 points while 12 months ago they were 17th with 21. Steve Lomas eventually lost his job come Boxing Day and Holloway said: “As a manager, you set up your team to go out and do things.You look at the opposition and have a game plan. When you change shape, it’s a different structure.
“What’s difficult is when it doesn’t go right and you have to stand there. I don’t blame people – I blame myself and that’s what I want to do. It was an awful day, but it makes you strong.
“I apologise to the fans. We made some terrible mistakes as a group and individually, and I accept all those mistakes because it’s my job. They were crisp, sharp and confident, and everything they hit went in.”
FIVE STAR: Patrick Bamford nets as Boro run riot. Inset: Jelle Vossen celebrates his first goal in English football
STAR MAN JELLE VOSSE
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