Middlesbrough boss takes positives out of opening defeat to Wolves

Middlesbrough's Ben Gibson and Wolves' Bright Enobakhare battle for the ball.
Middlesbrough's Ben Gibson and Wolves' Bright Enobakhare battle for the ball.

Middlesbrough manager Garry Monk refused to be downcast with Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Wolves.

New striker Leo Bonatini made an instant impact as his debut goal earned the home side a Sky Bet Championship victory.

Bonatini, who has joined Wolves on a season-long loan from the Saudi Arabian side Al Hilal, pounced on a 33rd-minute mistake in the Boro defence.

Monk said he was pleased with the way his side played in the second half as they looked for a way back into the game.

Monk, who felt that Wolves goalkeeper John Ruddy could have been sent off after he appeared to handle the ball outside the penalty area in the second half, said: “In the first half Wolves were the better team and we made too many mistakes and obviously one of them led to a goal.

“But I thought we were the better team in the second half and we upped our level of urgency. We need that at the start of games.

“We had the best chances in the game and on any other day we could have taken one or two of them. That is football and is sometimes the way that it works out.

“We definitely deserved something from the game. In terms of the result it was disappointing but in terms of what we deserved it doesn’t show a true reflection.

“We know that we will get better and we should take confidence from that.

“There is always a hype because it is the first game but it is a long, long season and I am sure that we will be collecting many points over the coming months.

“Not one game will define our season. We will take it on the chin and try and get a result next week.”

With 13 debutants on show - seven from Wolves and six from Middlesbrough - it was perhaps not surprising that the opening stages of the game saw the two new-look teams struggle to create any real chances of note.

Adam Clayton’s 14th-minute free-kick, after George Friend had been fouled by Wolves right-back Matt Doherty, did cause concern in the hosts penalty area until it was steered behind for a corner by Bonatini.

While Middlesbrough toiled for an opening, Wolves were equally short of success in front of goal.

Bonatini did do well to tee-up £15m club record signing Ruben Neves on the edge of the area in the 19th minute.

But the Portugal international midfielder, who joined Wolves from Porto, was unable to get any power on his shot and it was comfortably cleared by the Middlesbrough backline.

It looked like it would need something inspired or a mistake to end the stalemate and unfortunately for Middlesbrough it was a howler from Daniel Ayala that let in Bonatini to break the deadlock and finally spark the game into life.

A misplaced pass by Ayala was intercepted by Bonatini and he strode into the penalty area before rolling the ball past the stranded Middlesbrough goalkeeper Darren Randolph.

But Wolves’ advantage should really have been short-lived as Martin Braithwaite squandered a golden opportunity to equalise.

Cyrus Christie delivered an excellent right-wing cross that picked out Braithwaite only for the Danish forward to lift his header well wide after coming under pressure from goalkeeper John Ruddy.

Having wasted that opening, Middlesbrough were fortunate not to fall further behind six minutes after the restart when only the outstretched hand of Randolph prevented Bright Enobakhare from doubling Wolves advantage after a powerful run into the penalty area.

Converting that chance would have eased Wolves nerves as Middlesbrough looked for a way back on to level terms.

They would have found an equaliser in the 72nd minute had it not been for Ruddy.

Middlesbrough’s £15m striker Britt Assombalonga was set-up by Patrick Bamford only for Ruddy to spread his body to beat away the close range shot.

Wolverhampton: John Ruddy, Roderick Miranda, Coady, Boly, Doherty, Saiss, Neves, Douglas, Enobakhare (Edwards 78), Jota (Graham 84), Leo Bonatini (Dicko 57).

Subs Not Used: Bennett, Batth, Ronan, Norris. Booked: Roderick Miranda. Goals: Leo Bonatini 33.

Middlesbrough: Randolph, Christie, Ayala, Gibson, Friend, Howson (Gestede 81), Clayton, de Roon (Forshaw 65), Braithwaite, Assombalonga, Fletcher (Bamford 57).

Subs Not Used: Konstantopoulos, Da Silva, Leadbitter, Fry. Booked: Clayton, Forshaw.

Att: 29,692 Ref: Darren Bond (Lancashire).