Sport Soccer

Saturday 21 October 2017

Middlesbrough power to Wembley at Brentford's expense

Albert Adomah of Middlesbrough (C) celebrates with Grant Leadbitter (L) and Lee Tomlin (R) as he scores their third goal during the Sky Bet Championship Playoff semi final second leg match between Middlesbrough and Brentford at the Riverside Stadium
Albert Adomah of Middlesbrough (C) celebrates with Grant Leadbitter (L) and Lee Tomlin (R) as he scores their third goal during the Sky Bet Championship Playoff semi final second leg match between Middlesbrough and Brentford at the Riverside Stadium

Damian Spellman

Aitor Karanka will cap his first full season in English football with a trip to Wembley after guiding Middlesbrough into the Championship play-off final with a resounding victory over Brentford.

Goals from Lee Tomlin, Kike and man of the match Albert Adomah a secured 3-0 semi-final, second-leg victory in front of a crowd of 33,266 at the Riverside Stadium to extend the Teessiders' aggregate advantage to 5-1 as the Bees suffered play-off heartache for the eighth time.

Karanka will now take his team to Wembley on May 25 - the first time they will have visited English football's headquarters since the 1998 League Cup final - for a showdown with either Norwich or Ipswich and the prospect of a return to the Barclays Premier League after a six-year absence.

It was a difficult night for opposite number Mark Warburton, who is due to part company with the club because of a difference of opinion with the hierarchy, in what proved to be their final game of the campaign.

Boro's head coach made just one change with leading scorer Patrick Bamford, who has been struggling for several weeks with an ankle problem, named only among the substitutes as Kike took his place.

It was a game which was perhaps better suited to the Spaniard's brawn rather than the Chelsea loanee's finesse as the first-half unfolded in blood and thunder fashion with referee Lee Mason demonstrating remarkable patience on a rain-soaked surface.

Boro winger Adomah gave Bees left-back Jake Bidwell a torrid time while on the opposite side of the pitch, George Friend had his hands full with Jota.

It was the latter who produced the night's first shot on goal, a left-foot attempt from distance which was fielded comfortably by keeper Dimi Konstantopoulos, and the traffic was largely in the opposite direction.

The home side got their reward with 23 minutes gone and it was fitting that three of their most impressive players on the night were involved.

Adam Clayton sent a raking crossfield ball out to Adomah, who cut inside Bidwell before squaring for Tomlin to clip a shot past keeper David Button with the help of a slight deflection off Harlee Dean - the defender had claimed during the week that the Teessiders could only score from set-pieces and counter-attacks - and the inside of the post.

Brentford might have been level three minutes before the break, but neither Andre Gray not Jonathan Douglas could get a meaningful touch to Moses Odubajo's cross.

Kike only just failed to connect with Adomah's driven 47th-minute cross, but quite how Gray did not get his foot to Odubajo's equally firm ball seconds later was a mystery to Warburton.

But Kike made no mistake when presented with his opportunity, smashing home a second after the ball had ricocheted kindly into his path following Jelle Vossen's surging 55th-minute run into the box.

The visitors battled gamely for a way back into the game, but Boro cemented the win with 12 minutes remaining when Adomah exchanged passes with Tomlin and blasted home off the underside of the crossbar.

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