MIDDLESBROUGH’S boss Aitor Karanka said sorry for his outburst after suffering the agony of witnessing Blackburn’s controversial late equaliser which denied Boro a share of top spot.
Karanka apologised after being sent to the stands for his reaction after Co Durham referee Mark Clattenburg allowed Rudy Gestede’s 95th-minute leveller .
The Rovers striker powerfully headed in but Boro goalkeeper Dimi Konstantopoulos appeared to have been fouled as he went up for a cross.
Furious Boro players complained to Mr Clattenburg while Karanka and his backroom staff had words with the fourth official, David Coote.
Then Premier League ref Clattenburg made the decision to send Karanka down the tunnel early and the Spaniard was disappointed with himself for his reaction.
But the Middlesbrough boss remains furious at the decision to allow Gestede’s goal to stand.
Karanka said: “It’s very frustrating. I would like to apologise because my behaviour was not good and Middlesbrough Football Club deserves better from me. But it was tough to take because we had worked so hard for 92, 93 minutes and what we had worked so hard for was almost in our grasp.
“I was sent to the stands for pushing the fourth official but I was arguing with him, not touching him.
“I thought the goal should have been disallowed for a foul on the keeper.”
Blackburn boss Gary Bowyer was understandably not too concerned about the decision because it earned a point that keeps his side in the top six.
Bowyer said: “I only saw the equaliser in real time. There was some commotion about it in real time and I saw Boro weren’t happy about it but I wasn’t concentrating on their goalkeeper. I was concentrating on the ball going into the back of the net.”
Middlesbrough had created a number of great chances but were constantly prevented from taking the lead by Blackburn goalkeeper Simon Eastwood.
The 25-year-old had not started a game since January but he pulled off some brilliant saves; the pick being a close-range stop from Jelle Vossen’s power header on the hour.
Bowyer said: “Simon Eastwood’s save to stop Vossen was unbelievable and it was save of the season for me. It had goal written all over it. It was bang on the head from close range but he never gave up on it.”
And Karanka, whose side eventually did go ahead in the 83rd minute when Patrick Bamford drilled through a crowded box, said: “It said everything that their man of the match was their keeper.
“Patrick looked very impressive and I can only see him getting better every day.
“We did everything well. The problem was their goal and I don’t think the goal should have stood.”
Boro, who slipped down to fourth before kick-off because of Ipswich’s win at Charlton, knew that they would have to stop one of the Championship’s other form teams if they were to stand any chance of climbing in to the top two.
Rovers, unbeaten in their previous eight matches, had to make two changes to the side which defeated Leeds. The most notable was Eastwood’s first start in goal since January because Jason Steele, on loan from Middlesbrough, was ineligible to face his parent club.
And he was soon called into action when he had to race out of his area to head clear a dangerous long ball. While the danger soon disappeared that time, he had to make a strong save to his right shortly after when Grant Leadbitter drove powerfully at goal following a probing Lee Tomlin run.
After consecutive draws, Boro were looking to return to winning ways and started brightly. They were unfortunate not to have a half-time lead and Jelle Vossen thought he had delivered exactly that.
When Bamford’s curling effort from 20 yards was spilled by Eastwood in the six-yard box, Vossen pounced to lift the rebound up over the keeper but as the ball headed for the line it was hooked clear by Shane Duffy. Winger Albert Adomah then shot narrowly wide of the upright.
Blackburn struggled to get out of their own half and Middlesbrough passed the ball around the green shirts confidently, with Karanka’s men regularly creating chances but failing to convert so the visitors remained in contention for something.
Such was Middlesbrough’s dominance in the first half, it was hard to believe that Blackburn were still level after the home side had mustered up an impressive 12 shots in the opening period alone.
But the second half continued in the same way, with Blackburn happy to allow Middlesbrough to have possession and look for a counter-attack – and the ploy almost worked.
Seconds after Eastwood had denied Bamford at one end, Blackburn broke down the other end and birthday boy Konstantopoulos was forced to make his first real save when he dived to his left to parry Markus Olsson’s well-driven effort.
The best save of the lot, though, belonged to Eastwood. The Riverside was left stunned when he somehow scurried across his line, dived left to turn behind a free header from Vossen which was destined for the net following a lovely George Friend delivery.
There was also a save to deny Emilio Nsue’s back post volley and then from Tomlin but, finally, Middlesbrough got the break they needed.
A failure to deal with a corner saw a half clearance drop invitingly for Bamford to power towards goal. It was helped on its way by a deflection, and Eastwood was finally beaten.
Blackburn, however, battled back and Gestede had the last word with that goal.