MANCHESTER, January 24 – Patrick Bamford and Kike were Middlesbrough’s goal-scoring heroes as they knocked Manchester City out of the FA Cup with a stunning 2-0 win at the Premier League champions’ Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
The defeat will inevitably raise questions about City’s decision to spend the week at a warm-weather training camp in Abu Dhabi and, more importantly, the fact that Manuel Pellegrini’s side only returned to England late on Friday.
Middlesbrough broke the deadlock after 52 minutes with a goal that owed everything to City’s growing nerves in defence as Fernando underhit a back pass towards Willy Caballero, in for the rested Joe Hart, and the goalkeeper immediately came under pressure from Albert Adomah.
Caballero’s unconvincing clearance ricocheted against the Middlesbrough man and the ball rolled towards the goal-line where Fernando, in an attempt to clear, succeeded only in striking the ball against Bamford and into his own net.
It was the start of a riveting second half and one which saw City substitute Frank Lampard strike the post in the 89th minute before Middlesbrough completed their shock victory in the third minute of injury time.
Yet another Boro counter-attack against outnumbered defenders ended with Bamford being brought down on the edge of the area and, with the visitors granted the advantage, Kike swept the ball home.
But for all their attacking prowess, Middlesbrough had Spanish stand-in goalkeeper Tomas Mejias to thank for keeping them in contention during the first half.
– Miskick –
After a cagey start, Sergio Aguero made room for himself after 24 minutes and unleashed a near-post shot which Mejias turned into the side netting despite referee Phil Dowd awarding a goal kick.
Moments later, City put together a flowing move which switched the ball from right to left and ended with Aleksandar Kolarov sprinting in and Mejias saving his powerful shot impressively.
Seconds after that, Mejias was once more in City’s sights, this time keeping out Stevan Jovetic’s 20-yard shot.
Fortune also smiled on Middlesbrough when City carved out their best chance of the half only for it to fall to defender Dedryck Boyata who first miskicked a James Milner cross and then placed the rebound yards over the goal.
City kept building the pressure and, in quick succession, Milner and David Silva had shots from the edge of the area which Mejias again did well to keep out.
But Mejias’s best save of the half came on 39 minutes when the lively Jovetic was denied by a spectacular dive.
In the second half, Boro almost had a second goal four minutes after taking the lead when Caballero’s awful clearance fell straight to Lee Tomlin.
Caballerio atoned for that error with an impressive save while Grant Leadbitter’s follow-up shot was blocked.
As City pushed for an equaliser, Boro had a number of opportunities to counter-attack, a tactic which Pellegrini’s men normally employ to good effect.
Indeed, in one remarkable two-minute period, Middlesbrough might have put the tie beyond all reasonable doubt.
In the 62nd minute, Adomah found himself clean through with only Caballero to beat but his attempted chip lacked elevation.
Tomlin was stunningly unlucky seconds later when he received the ball on the edge of the box, spun past Kompany acrobatically and eased in front of the defence before thundering his shot against the post.
After 74 minutes, another Middlesbrough counter-attack almost ended in spectacular fashion as Adomah sped down the left, with the visitors enjoying a three-on-two advantage, and crossed to the far post where Jelle Vossen connected with a superb volley which drew a reflex stop out of Caballero.