Middlesbrough boss wants quick response after Leeds setback

Grant Leadbitter fires in a shot against Leeds
Grant Leadbitter fires in a shot against Leeds

AITOR Karanka urged Middlesbrough to immediately bounce back after a 1-0 home loss to Leeds hurt their Sky Bet Championship title hopes.

Alex Mowatt’s third-minute goal meant Boro, who entered Saturday’s early kick-off one point clear at the top of the table, slumped to a first home defeat since August.

While frustrated at dropping points in a game his side dominated, Karanka knows his men have a chance to make amends when Bolton visit the Riverside tomorrow night.

He said: “Today is the kind of day you cannot explain. We are frustrated because we have done everything to win this game and we haven’t won it.

“I can’t say anything bad about my players because they have done their best. We now have to think about Tuesday against Bolton.

“I thought the performance was very good. I don’t know how many chances we had. However, we have an important game on Tuesday.

“The best thing is to play again on Tuesday, especially at home. This team always reacts very well after a defeat.”

Karanka had continued his rotation policy, with six changes made to the side that started in midweek.

It was the sole enforced alteration that proved Boro’s undoing, though, as Leeds took an immediate lead.

Tomas Mejias, in the XI because Dimi Konstantopoulos was serving a suspension for his red card versus Birmingham, saw a poor throw-out intercepted by Lewis Cook.

And the midfielder took full advantage, pulling back for Mowatt to fire into the bottom corner via a deflection.

Middlesbrough almost bounced back immediately, only for Jelle Vossen to fluff his lines having been picked out by Grant Leadbitter’s well-worked free-kick.

The home side looked the most likely to score thereafter, with Kike and Vossen drawing smart saves from Marco Silvestri.

Vossen then went agonisingly close to levelling when Giuseppe Bellusci cleared off the line to deny the Belgian after good work from Kike and Adam Reach.

The onslaught showed few signs of halting as only last-ditch defending, and excellent saves from Silvestre to deny Kike and Adam Clayton, kept Leeds ahead at half-time.

Picking up where they left off, Middlesbrough applied further pressure following the interval, Kike seeing an effort turned around the post by Silvestri.

But Leeds issued a warning shot of their own moments later when Scott Wootton nodded James Murphy’s free-kick against the crossbar.

Any thoughts that his effort may herald a spell of visiting pressure were quickly extinguished, Silvestri again called into action by Kike and Albert Adomah.

Karanka introduced Patrick Bamford midway through the second period in a bid to find an elusive equaliser.

Yet even switching to 4-2-4 did not bring the desired goal, with Bamba denying Kike after a sublime move.

Frustration then turned to worry inside the Riverside as Vossen was stretchered off with what appeared to be a serious head injury.

That meant there were nine minutes of injury time, although Middlesbrough – down to 10 men having used three substitutes – could not force themselves level.