Middlesbrough boss questions attitude in Tottenham defeat

Tottenham's Dele Alli takes on Middlesbrough's Calum Chambers and Gaston Ramirez
Tottenham's Dele Alli takes on Middlesbrough's Calum Chambers and Gaston Ramirez

Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka questioned the attitude of his players after watching them slide to their third consecutive top-flight defeat.

Son Heung-min struck twice for the second time in a fortnight to sink Boro at the Riverside Stadium.

It’s true we have lost three games in a row but the players know the problem.

Following up his double against Stoke earlier this month, Son put Spurs ahead after seven minutes and added his second midway through the first half before Boro reduced the deficit through Ben Gibson after the break as the visitors ran out 2-1 winners.

Karanka was especially frustrated with the way his side more than held their own in an invigorating second period having effectively thrown away their chance of victory in a below-par first period.

Karanka said: “It’s frustrating for me to work for seven days to try to show them how Tottenham play and how good they are if we let them play, then we go on the pitch and seven minutes later we are losing 1-0.

“These mistakes were made last week and the week before, but the worst and most frustrating thing for me was the attitude, especially in the first half because in the second half we were completely different.”

However Karanka insisted he retains belief in his current squad having pointed to their misfortune at home to Crystal Palace and a strong start against Everton at Goodison Park last week.

Karanka added: “It’s not about ability because we knew Everton have more quality players than us and Tottenham have more quality players than us. It is about convincing them that they are good players.

“It’s true we have lost three games in a row but the players know the problem. I was really pleased with the squad after the West Brom game and after three defeats I am really pleased with the squad.

“We have one week now to decide which type of team we are - if we want to be the first half team we will have problems, but if we decide to be the team who played in the second half we will win games so it is in our hands.”

After taking time to settle, Spurs sparked with a swift sixth-minute move which ended in Dele Alli firing a long-range effort which Victor Valdes did well to push out for a corner.

And within a minute the visitors went in front when Vincent Janssen’s neat lay-off in the box sent Son dribbling his way across the box before placing a neat finish underneath the despairing Valdes.

Spurs proceeded to attack with increasing purpose and it was no surprise when they doubled their lead in the 23rd minute with Son once again taking advantage of hesitation in the Boro defence.

Searching a sight of goal, the 24-year-old dribbled down the left side of the box, beating two defenders before turning sharply and delivering a delicious right-foot finish past the static Valdes.

Alli should have got on the scoresheet before half-time when Christian Eriksen pulled the ball back inside the box and the England midfielder, normally so sure in front of goal, side-footed well over the bar.

The one-sided action continued in the second half, Eriksen tricking his way through the back-pedalling Boro rearguard with aplomb before the move finally broke down.

Boro substitute Adama Traore gave his side fresh attacking impetus after being introduced on the hour and their renewed efforts were rewarded in the 65th minute when the hosts reduced the deficit.

Stewart Downing, who had been largely ineffectual throughout the afternoon, whipped in a free-kick from the left and Gibson beat Wanyama in the box to direct a strong header beyond the reach of Hugo Lloris.

Son came close to completing his hat-trick on 75 minutes when he was fed by substitute Erik Lamela on the right side of the Boro box but saw his shot well blocked by defender Calum Chambers.

But Spurs’ lead looked increasingly vulnerable and Jordan Rhodes was not far away two minutes later when he got his head to another deep Downing cross only for Lloris to save well down low.

Ultimately Boro came up short in their quest for an equaliser leaving boss Aitor Karanka with plenty to ponder after a third consecutive top-flight defeat.

Middlesbrough: Valdes, Barragan, Chambers, Gibson, Friend, de Roon, Clayton (Forshaw 82), Stuani, Ramirez (Traore 59), Downing, Negredo (Rhodes 59). Subs Not Used: Ayala, Fischer, Guzan, Nsue. Booked: Traore, Friend. Goals: Gibson 65.

Tottenham: Lloris, Walker, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Davies, Eriksen (Nkoudou 90), Wanyama, Alli, Sissoko (Lamela 70), Janssen (Winks 86), Son. Subs Not Used: Vorm, Trippier, Wimmer, Carter-Vickers. Goals: Son 7, 23.

Att: 32,703 Ref: Graham Scott