Aitor Karanka hails Kike after Cardiff City 0 Middlesbrough 1

Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka.
Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka.
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AITOR Karanka hailed the magic of Kike as Middlesbrough moved to within four points of the top of the Sky Bet Championship.

Boro’s summer signing from Murcia netted his third league goal of the campaign in the second minute at Cardiff City to move his side up to eighth in the table, just a point outside the top six.

Karanka believes the 24-year-old is adapting well to the English game.

He said: “Kike has to learn as it is different here.

“He was up against two big defenders and he knows it is difficult here, but he had Jelle Vossen close to him and they played well together.

“Kike has adapted well and he is scoring goals.

“He has quality, he wants to settle as soon as possible. We have a good squad and it is important for the new lads to settle in quick.”

Karanka also confirmed defender Damia will undergo a scan after being stretchered off with a knee injury in the second half.

He said: “I think it is a serious knee injury but let’s see, he will have a scan and we will see what happens.

“It would be disappointing, that was a position where we had a lot of problems last season but we will see.”

Despite the injury blow, it was a great night’s work at the Cardiff City Stadium, where ex-Pools keeper Dimi Konstantopoulos proved his worth with a clean sheet.

“It was a very good win to keep improving our confidence.

“Like Saturday, we had two or three chances to end the game earlier, but we didn’t take them. But it was a very important win for us, everyone is working very hard and for the team.”

After two superb wins on the road, Karanka is keen to see Boro end their poor home form by beating Brentford at the Riverside on Saturday.

“Thirty seconds after the game I brought the players feet back on the floor,” said the Spaniard.

“We have a game on Saturday and we have lost the last two at the Riverside so we’ve got to look to win this one.”

Cardiff boss Ole Gunnar Soskjaer rang the changes after theor 4-2 home collapse to Norwich, yet that still could not prevent Middlesbrough taking the lead inside two minutes.

Daniel Ayala was booked for a lunging tackle on Adeyemi but from Peter Whittingham’s free-kick, Boro surged forward to score.

Albert Adomah sped down the right before crossing for Kike to expertly finish right-footed from close range.

The score was on the counter-attack but Middlesbrough threatened every time they entered Cardiff’s half, winning four corners inside the first 30 minutes alone.

Cardiff centre-back Cala was booked as the hosts’ defending became more desperate while Anthony Pilkington’s wild shot from 30 metres out was as good as it got in attack before half-time.

Damia became the second Middlesbrough player shown a yellow card though defensive partner George Friend almost tip-toed through at the other end.

That sparked a counter-attack from Cardiff through Kenwyne Jones and Federico Macheda though Kenneth Omerou, on loan from Chelsea, recovered well to snuff out the danger.

Cardiff’s inability to either break down Boro or prevent the likes of Adomah surging forward prompted a midfield reshuffle to a diamond formation before the break.

But it still took a last-ditch tackle by Ecuel Manga to deny Vossen after Matthew Connolly was horribly caught out by a simple long ball.

Aron Gunnarsson replaced Macheda at half-time to provide some urgency in the home midfield yet it failed to lift a side looking desperately short of confidence and Marshall had to make the first telling save of the second-half, pushing Adam Clayton’s shot wide.

Cardiff struggled to hold on to the ball long enough to muster any sustained pressure and Middlesbrough rarely appeared stretched beyond their means.

Jones offered a physical presence up front but was a lone threat though and was ruled off-side from Gunnarsson’s pin-point cross. Pilkington managed to deliver just one cross, that went unconverted.

Boro repeatedly caught Cardiff on the break and only the quick thinking of Marshall snuffed out another chance for Clayton.

Solskjaer threw on summer signings Javi Guerra and Adam Le Fondre in search of an equaliser but fell well short despite a late flurry in injury-time.