BORO BOSS: WAGNER WAY WILL WORK FOR TERRIERS
But not yet as David defeated again
AITOR Karanka couldn’t hide his admiration for David Wagner’s new-look Huddersfield after seeing his title-contenders played off the park – despite coming out on top.
Wagner, who took charge three weeks ago, was Jurgen Klopp’s assistant at Borussia Dortmund and has promised to instill the “full throttle” pressing game made famous by the German giants.
And while maiden goals from former Terrier Adam Clayton and fullback Emilio Nsue ensured Boro returned to Teesside with a jammy three points, nobody was in any doubt that the home side have taken his teachings to heart.
Slick, aggressive, rapid on the break – the only thing missing so far is results, with Huddersfield yet to pick up a point in Wagner’s two games.
“Very impressive,” said Karanka, whose side moved into second place behind Brighton. “Our performance wasn’t good, but for the whole game they looked like a side who are top of the league. They played really well.
“The coach has been here just three weeks but I am looking forward to seeing more of him because I liked his team a lot. He can do something very good here.
“Dean Whitehead is still in touch with some of our lads and he has told them how good the manager is, how good the training is.You could see that
on the pitch, the way they always try to play, their organisation without the ball. All I would say to him is ‘keep going’. He has lost two games, but when I arrived I lost three out of five. But the club trusted me and now we are in a good position. If this club trusts him, I think he will do a great job for them.”
Judged on this performance, he already has. When Clayton wriggled through four men to blast into the roof of the net – his first goal in 58 appearances since joining from the Terriers in August 2014 – the home side could easily have wilted.
But they stuck to the game plan, hunting every Boro player in packs, slamming into challenges and sending full-backs careening beyond even the strikers.
Nahki Wells hit the crossbar with a delicate free-kick, then should have scored when played in by Sean Scannell, only to punt a hasty effort straight at Dimi Konstantopoulos. Scannell himself tested the Greek keeper with a close-range stab.
Boro simply couldn’t get the ball, with Clayton somehow escaping censure for a succession of uncompromising challenges.
Most alluring of all was the Terriers’ fresh-faced left-flank, with Joe Lolley and Ben Chilwell – making his first professional start on loan from Leicester – combining to run Nsue ragged.
“Ben was very good,” said Wagner. “He is 18 years old, but he played so cool, like an experienced player. He made a lot of correct decisions.”
Not, however, as many as Clayton, Daniel Ayala and Ben Gibson. Boro’s back line is the bedrock of their promotion push and, having survived those early scares, intelligently allowed Huddersfield to dominate possession without working a real opening.
Though still on top, the Terriers tired and, like a boxer sensing a sagging opponent, the visitors landed a brutal knockout blow.
Sub Christian Stuani lofted a clever ball to David Nugent, who knocked down for the galloping Nsue. For a right back on his left foot who hadn’t scored in two years, the finish was lethally accurate.
“Sometimes in football, you don’t get what you deserve,” added Wagner, who was making his home bow. “Normally when you work very hard and play very good football you get a result.We did not.
“The result was ridiculous, a disaster. But it is important that everybody splits the result from the performance.
“The squad has been very openminded, how we train, when we train. We changed a lot of things but everybody can see they have accepted it.
“I said last week that I was confident about the future of this team. After this result, seeing how far we have come in just three weeks, I am now even more sure.”
HOLD ON: Huddersfield’s Mark Hudson applying pressure on Diego Fabbrini
SMASH AND GRAB: Adam Clayton celebrates scoring the first goal for Middlesbrough with team-mates. Inset: The former Terrier fires home