Middlesbrough verdict: The baffling decision which infuriated Neil Warnock during dramatic Swansea City defeat

Another opportunity missed. Another refereeing performance which will infuriate Middlesbrough boss Neil Warnock.

Saturday, 6th March 2021, 6:02 pm

The Boro boss knows his side’s attacking shortcomings, which were highlighted again during a 2-1 defeat at Swansea, yet the Teessiders can feel hard done by after this result.

After falling behind to Andre Ayew’s first-half opener, the Teessiders should have drawn level when Marc Bola produced an excellent strike, only for referee Gavin Ward to bring play back for a Swansea free-kick.

It then seemed like Boro had salvaged a point when Sam Morsy equalised in stoppage time, before an even later Ayew penalty gave Swansea the points.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

We take a closer look at some of the main talking points:

Summary

As expected, Swansea dominated possession in the first half but struggled to mount significant pressure or trouble Boro goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli in the first half.

Warnock will have been pleased with his side’s start, yet their good work was undone five minutes before half-time when a Swansea free-kick was headed away by Yannick Bolasie, before Bola and Jonny Howson went for the same ball.

Andre Ayew of Swansea City scores a penalty.

What followed was a costly error as Bola inadvertently headed the ball back into the danger zone and Ayew fired the ball past Bettinelli via a defection of Djed Spence.

Boro started brightly after half-time and were on the wrong end of a baffling decision from referee Gavin Ward shortly after the interval.

The man in charge penalised Bolasie when the Boro man slid in ahead of Jay Fulton, allowing Bola to fire the ball home from the edge of the area.

As Swansea retreated, the Teessiders dominated the second half and drew level when Morsy’s deflected effort made it 1-1 in stoppage time.

Yet there was still time for a late twist when Saville slid in on Jake Bidwell and a spot kick was awarded. The decision seemed a little harsh but the tackle was reckless from Saville. A tough one to take.

Tactics

Boro stuck with a back three and wing-backs to match Swansea up.

Warnock made four changes to the side which beat Coventry last time out, with George Saville, Sam Morsy, Yannick Bolasie and Duncan Watmore returning to the starting XI.

As we’ve seen previously this season, Warnock deployed man-marking tactics to nullify the opposition’s threats, with Jonny Howson sticking to Conor Hourihane and McNair keeping tabs on Korey Smith.

The aforementioned Swansea men were operating as advanced midfielders off Ayew who was kept quiet for large spells by Grant Hall or Dael Fry.

Yet for all Boro’s good defensive work, they lacked a focal point up front with Bolasie and Watmore dropping short to try and get on the ball.

Warnock introduced Chuba Akpom, Nathanial Mendez-Laing and Neeskens Kebano as his side upped the tempo in the second half. They deserved at least a point.

Star man

Morsy was excellent in the engine room, picking up loose balls and breaking up play.

His first goal for the club topped off a man of the match performance.

What’s next?

Boro are now seven points off the play-offs and have a week to reflect on this result.

Warnock’s side will now prepare for a home game against Stoke next weekend.

A message from the Football Clubs Editor

Our aim is to provide you with the best, most up-to-date and most informative Middlesbrough coverage 365 days a year.

This depth of coverage costs, so to help us maintain the high-quality reporting that you are used to, please consider taking out a subscription to our new sports-only package here.

Your support is much appreciated. Richard Mennear, Football Clubs Editor