Aitor Karanka delivered a half-time rocket to inspire 10-man Middlesbrough to an FA Cup third-round victory over Sheffield Wednesday.
The sides went in 0-0 at the break with neither goalkeeper having made a save, and Spaniard Karanka left his Premier League players in little doubt as to what was expected against Sky Bet Championship opponents after it.
I told them at half-time that I thought we were playing a friendly game and for me, the FA Cup is not a friendly game, it’s a really important game.
Speaking after a 3-0 win during which defender Daniel Ayala was sent off, he said: “The second half was completely different.
“I told them at half-time that I thought we were playing a friendly game and for me, the FA Cup is not a friendly game, it’s a really important game.
“Sometimes it’s difficult when you go on to the pitch against a team in a lower division to get the right mentality and in the second half, we went on to the pitch with the right attitude, the right mentality and even when we lost Dani, we were really consistent.
“Everybody was committed, everybody was fighting for every single ball and that’s the main thing for me.”
Asked if he was angry as he welcomed his players back into the dressing room at half-time, Karanka added: “Yes, because the image that we were showing wasn’t the right image. They came here knowing that they are in the Championship and they wanted to show everybody that they can compete against us.
“Now in every single football, if you don’t go on to the pitch 100 per cent, you will have problems.”
A crowd of 23,661 at the Riverside Stadium had endured a dreadful 58 minutes when Boro skipper Grant Leadbitter lifted the gloom with a perfectly-placed free-kick, although his side’s cause was dealt a significant blow within seconds when Ayala was dismissed for a foul on Fernando Forestieri.
Ayala received a straight red card from referee David Coote after stepping into Forestieri’s path with his appeals that there was cover arriving falling on deaf ears.
Karanka said: “At the beginning, I think it was a surprise for everybody. I haven’t watched it, but someone has told me it is a red card.”
Calm was restored when Alvaro Negredo blocked keeper Joe Wildsmith’s attempted clearance into the net and the game was won long before Marten de Roon’s strike in stoppage time.
Wednesday boss Carlos Carvalhal said: “We played our game, we moved the ball, we controlled the game. I am happy with my players and the way we played against a Premier League team.
“I am unhappy with the score, of course, but circumstances made us lose this game.”
Middlesbrough: Guzan, Chambers, Ayala, Bernardo, Friend, de Roon, Clayton (Downing 62), Leadbitter, Stuani, Negredo, Traore (Da Silva 62). Subs Not Used: Konstantopoulos, Gibson, Rhodes, Gestede, Forshaw. Sent Off: Ayala (59). Booked: Negredo, de Roon, Leadbitter. Goals: Leadbitter 58, Negredo 67, de Roon 90.
Sheff Wed: Wildsmith, Palmer (Lucas Joao 72), Lees, Loovens, Pudil, Wallace (McManaman 46), Jones, Bannan, Reach, Forestieri, Fletcher (Nuhiu 71). Subs Not Used: Semedo, Dawson, Hunt, Sasso. Booked: Fletcher, Bannan.
Att: 23,661 Ref: David Coote