Karanka delighted by Middlesbrough win at Fulham

Grant Leadbitter celebrates scoring from the spot
Grant Leadbitter celebrates scoring from the spot

Aitor Karanka believes Middlesbrough are finally hitting their stride after a comfortable 2-0 win at Fulham.

The victory lifted them to the same points tally as second-placed Hull, with a game in hand, to keep them well within touch of an automatic promotion place.

If we were to win every single game by 2-0, it would not be a problem for me.

Two early goals from Albert Adomah and Grant Leadbitter settled the contest by half-time to leave Karanka content.

“I told the players after the game against Leeds the way we were playing would mean we would start winning games,” he said.

“Sometimes when we score one goal we have problems scoring the second one. Today we scored two goals quickly and after that the game became easier.

“If we were to win every single game by 2-0, it would not be a problem for me. I know we are going to score goals because we have a lot of good players.

“Adomah played the same game as he did last Tuesday, and when he plays like that he’s one of the best in the league.”

The visitors had the perfect start after just three minutes - Stewart Downing found space on the left to cross into Adomah who was left alone in the area, for him to head home his seventh goal of the season.

Ross McCormack nearly equalised for the home side on nine minutes, when his left-footed shot flashed just wide of the post.

The visitors doubled their lead on 20 minutes, when Chris Baird upended David Nugent in the box. Captain Grant Leadbitter sent goalkeeper Andrew Lonergan the wrong way from the penalty spot.

Fulham suffered a further setback when Ryan Fredericks limped off two minutes later, although he had a more than adequate replacement in Moussa Dembele.

Downing turned a cross just wide on 32 minutes, from an acute angle, while substitute Dembele was denied from a spectacular overhead kick by Dimi Konstantopoulos six minutes before the break.

The hosts were denied two minutes later with an excellent clearance off the line from Ritchie De Laet, after a header from Michael Madl.

The second half started off quietly, with Middlesbrough looking to kill the game off as a spectacle.

Fulham made their second change of the afternoon on 57 minutes, with Baird replaced by midfielder Zakaria Labyad.

Downing had the first effort of the second half on 64 minutes, when he was fed through by Adomah, but his effort was well blocked by captain Scott Parker.

Slavisa Jokanivic made one final change for the home side, on 68 minutes, when he replaced Ryan Tunnicliffe with Jamie O’Hara.

Although Fulham put on more pressure on the Middlesbrough goal, they were let down by wild and inaccurate shooting.

Dembele came close on 83 minutes with a turn and shot in the penalty area, but his close range effort went over the bar.

The day of the hosts got even worse on 86 minutes, albeit in controversial circumstances. Richard Stearman was shown a red card for fouling substitute Jordan Rhodes - however, the defender had slipped to foul the striker in his own half.

With six minutes of injury time awarded, Middlesbrough were able to close out the win to push themselves back into the promotion race.

Fulham: Lonergan, Fredericks (Dembele 22), Stearman, Burn, Madl, Garbutt, Cairney, Parker, Baird (Labyad 57), McCormack, Tunnicliffe (O’Hara 68). Subs not used: Richards, Kacaniklic, Lewis, Hyndman. Sent Off: Stearman (86). Booked: Burn, O’Hara.

Middlesbrough: Konstantopoulos, Nsue, Fry, Gibson, De Laet, Forshaw, Leadbitter, Adomah, Ramirez (Friend 87), Downing (Stuani 73), Nugent (Rhodes 79). Subs not used: De Pena, Mejias, De Sart, Kalas. Goals: Adomah 3, Leadbitter 20 pen.

Att: 18,862. Ref: Charles Breakspear