Boro’s magnificent Jelle wobbles Lions

Jelle Vossen
Jelle Vossen

TRY, try and try again.

That has seemingly been the motto of Jelle Vossen since swapping Belgium for Boro.

And his determination paid dividends on Saturday at Millwall. Again and again and again.

It all began with punt forward not dealt with by the defence and met by a crisp, sublime volley that thundered into the top-corner.

Vossen’s spectacular goal in the 21st minute at the Den was a finish that oozed confidence and had an aura about it of a prolific goalscorer.

His team-mate Adam Reach mesmerised in it: “That first goal was pure technical ability. That is what he is all about.”

Except that up until the weekend, the on-loan Genk forward had yet to even locate the net in his preceding 12 Middlesbrough outings.

Confidence, he asserted with surety afterwards, did not drain from him. He just worked harder, waiting for the unfruitful period in front of goal to end.

He can’t have envisaged three appearances on the vidiprinter in a matter of 23 minutes, however. Goal, goal and another goal, is what he did on Saturday.

He claimed a memorable hat-trick, scoring twice more after Patrick Bamford had doubled the visitors lead before half-time was even upon us.

He and Bamford intertwined effortlessly. Mobile, clever, nuisances and potent.

Together they tore into the Lions – a quality that the hosts should have had if their animalistic moniker resembled their play.

Vossen and Bamford were such a menace that centre-half Bryon Webster was hooked at half-time, spared any more embarrassment.

A 4-0 lead at the interval came courtesy of three frighteningly-fast counter attacks, a weaponry that Boro utilise to such clinical effect.

Ian Holloway, the Lions manager who was booed after 30 minutes, noted in his programme notes that he believed his side were “not far away from being one ourselves.”

“Ourselves” was in reference to Middlesbrough being one of the Championship’s promotion contenders. Contenders they remain after this demolition but much tougher tests await.

This was barely even a contest. Holloway’s assumption, on this performance at least, radiated blind optimism.

His opposite number, Aitor Karanka, had sounded of his difficult week before the match, the exit of Craig Hignett as his assistant manager and a FA charge of misconduct for his actions towards the fourth official against Blackburn the week prior certifying a turbulent seven days.

Fortunately for him, the squad he has assembled did what what they are now becoming renowned for – winning convincingly and comfortably.

The barometer of expectation at Boro keeps on rising with every new edition of a near-perfect Boro display. The only pockmark on the performance was former Boro player Scott McDonald scoring to prevent a Dimi Konstantopoulos clean sheet.

Yet even when completeness cannot be fulfilled, Boro right their wrongs. Within a minute sub Kike had restored their four-goal lead.

Hit Boro, and they’ll hit thump you even harder.

It could, should and would have been more than five goals if the referee Mick Russell and his officials had awarded what looked like a legitimate a Boro goal in the opening 10 minutes.

Vossen headed a corner onto the post, the ball rebounded off the inside off the framework towards keeper David Forde who clawed the ball back from the line under the presence of Daniel Ayala who attempted to nudge the ball in.

Replays provided a convincing but not confirmative argument that the ball crossed the line. But within 35 minutes, that incident paled into mere insignificance.

First, Vossen scored the game’s opening goal and seven minutes later Bamford steered the ball into the bottom corner from a Reach pass.

It was Reach again who assisted the next goal, squaring for Vossen who slid in his second.

A brace turned to a treble one minute before half-time when the Belgian slotted into an empty goal from a rebounded Bamford shot that originated with Bamford shrugging off Webster with ease before hitting the ball straight at Forde.

The excellent Bamford could have made it five just seconds into the second half when he profited from an unfortunate backwards header to run clear on goal, but he dragged his chance wide. Millwall did attack more, lively substitute Magaye Gueye thumping a shot against Ayala’s hand and another against Kenneth Omeruo.

McDonald scooped a finish into the roof of the net but barely had the scoreboard altered and Boro had scored again.

Emilio Nsue launched down the right flank and pulled the ball back to Kike on the edge of the box who curled a sweet shot into the net.

It was a day for Karanka to enjoy a reprieve from the tempestuous week. It was also Jelle’s day to shine.

MILLWALL: Forde, Dunne, Webster (Shittu 46), Williams, Wilkinson, Upson (Woolford 70), Powell (Gueye 46), Malone, McDonald, Gregory,Fuller.

Subs Not Used: Easter, Briggs, Martinez, King.

Booked: McDonald.

Goal: McDonald 78.

BORO: Konstantopoulos, Nsue, Omeruo, Ayala, Friend, Adomah, Leadbitter, Clayton (Veljkovic 63), Reach (Wildschut 81), Vossen (Kike 71), Bamford.

Subs Not Used: Gibson, Tomlin, Whitehead, Mejias.

Goals: Vossen 21, 34, 44; Bamford 28, Kike 79.

Att: 10,328

Ref: Mick Russell (Herts).