Boro beat Brentford 1-0 in yesterday’s lunchtime kick-off
Boro boss values victory over the Bees even higher
IT WON’T cause a ripple in comparison, or upset as many multi-millionaires, but Aitor Karanka believes his side’s victory at Brentford is even better than making mincemeat of Manchester City.
Griffin Park may not have the wow factor of the Etihad, and the influence of this result won’t be felt worldwide like it was when they powered past the Premier League leaders the week before, but for the Spaniard bigger is not always better.
Karanka can see progression and he knows a top-two spot is theirs for the taking.
Savouring the spotlight in Manchester following the 2-0 FA Cup success, he craves that adulation for himself and his team on a much more regular basis.
And, by earning three points against a side so fearsome at home, claiming another clean sheet in the process, Middlesbrough are making waves.
A gift from Harlee Dean put in Patrick Bamford and, once the striker was clattered by keeper David Button, captain fantastic Grant Leadbitter converted from the spot.
He always does. Eight taken, eight scored so far, the midfielder typifies the battling qualities his coach has quickly installed.
It was their fourth win on the spin and their seventh shut-out in eight games. No wonder people are talking.
Karanka said: “This was a very important win against a team playing for the same position as us.
“The performance maybe wasn’t as good as last Saturday but it was more important – it’s a stadium where it’s difficult to win.
“This is now a crucial month for us. After next Saturday, it is seven games in 21 days, so this victory is vital to us.
“Our captain showed our great character. We defended very well against a side who are very strong at their home ground. Not just our defenders. We are working really well all over the pitch.
“I was not worried about complacency after Manchester City.
“I knew it would be a difficult week, the players more excited than normal.
“I thought we could play the same way as we did there, but the
head sometimes demands one thing that’s too big!”
The bear-hugs that greeted Dimitrios Konstantopoulos at full-time told a story. Brentford were so unlucky not to take a late point when the Greek goalkeeper reacted superbly with two seconds of injury time remaining, denying Jonathan Douglas with fine reflexes.
He was a hero, too, in a frantic opening, keeping out Jota in between missed chances for Bees’ Andre Gray and James Tarkowski.
Stuart Dallas was given the freedom of Griffin Park to run and line up a shot, but the Boro keeper pushed it on to the post. It was his good fortune the ball was just out of reach for the lurking Gray.
Things calmed after a frantic first 20 minutes, until defender Dean did something silly.
He let the long ball run and it sold keeper Button hopelessly short.
Bamford smelt blood. Button raced out. Down he fell and Leadbitter took the responsibility from the spot. Like the award, there was no question about the outcome. Brentford were behind a few kicks before half-time.
The second-half was low key, Boro happy to play the waiting game as Mark Warburton’s side ran out of ideas.
Jota tried to respond from distance before his corner found Dallas in space, but there was no punishment as the midfielder thrashed his shot over the bar.
Bamford nearly profited from Lee Tomlin’s slick pass but Button got his body in the way. The on-loan striker’s fantastic pass then picked out Jelle Vossen. His centre unleashed Albert Adomah, but he lacked composure.
The Bees came on strong towards the end through Dallas and Douglas, but it was too little too late.
THAT’S THE WAY TO DO IT: Boro’s Grant Leadbitter celebrates after scoring from the spot
ON ITS WAY: Grant Leadbitter scores Middlesbrough’s winner from a first-half penalty
WHAM BAM: Boro’s Patrick Bamford takes on Stuart Dallas