Karanka impressed with much-changed Boro – as Guzan shine on debut against Udinese

Gaston Ramirez hit the bar with Boro's closest chance at Udinese last night
Gaston Ramirez hit the bar with Boro's closest chance at Udinese last night

Aitor Karanka was delighted with Middlesbrough’s efforts in last night’s goalless pre-season friendly at Udinese.

The sides produced an entertaining clash on a warm night, in Boro’s penultimate preparatory match ahead of the big Premier League kick-off against Stoke City next Saturday.

Karanka enthused: “I was really pleased, another 90 minutes without injuries and a very good workout.

“It was another group of players who had played different numbers of minutes and that’s not always easy.

“These last two games (Boro won 3-1 at Aston Villa at the weekend) have shown me this team is getting more organised as the days go on and that is very pleasing.

“The new players are fitting in well.”

Keeper Brad Guzan made his bow, coming on as a second-half substitute for Tomas Mejias, and Karanka said of the former Villa man: “He is another good signing. He knows the (Premier) League well, he is an important player for us.”

Gaston Ramirez returned to action and was close to making the breakthrough for the Teessiders, only to rattle the bar with a fine free-kick.

Karanka said of the ex-Southampton man: “He is quality. We know him, we know how important he was for us last season. If it’s possible, he can be more important for us this season.”

Meanwhile, Boro are reported to have had an improved bid of around £5million for defender Harry Maguire turned down by fellow Premier League newcomers Hull.

The managerless Tigers are standing firm in keeping hold of the 23-year-old former Sheffield United star.

Last night’s match saw Boro – who made 10 changes to the starting line-up from Villa Park, with George Friend the only survivor – make a bright start, with Jordan Rhodes forcing home keeper Orestis Karenzis into an excellent early save.

Chances were few and far between in a tight first period, with Mejias having little to do. But half-time sub Guzan was quickly into action, saving well to deny Udinese’s Duvan Zapata.

Guzan had to be alert again from an effort from Emmanuel Badu then topped that with a brilliant effort to keep out a long-range strike from Rodrigo De Paul.

Boro, who made changes throughout the second half, had their best moment when Ramirez’s free-kick from four yards outside the box hit the Udinese bar.

Udinese pressed for a late winner, but Guzan saved a low Stipe Perica shot to maintain the clean sheet.

Boro finish their friendly programme when Real Socieded visit the Riverside on Saturday (3pm).

Middlesbrough: Mejias (Guzan 46), Barragan, Baptiste, Jackson (Nsue 66), Friend (Gibson 46), De Sart, Forshaw, Ramirez (Nugent 77), Stuani (Adomah 77),Reach (De Pena 66), Rhodes (Negredo 77). Subs: Clayton, Fischer, Downing.