Wednesday 25 April 2018

Rooney one of three Red Devils to fluff lines in shoot-out

Manchester Utd 0 Middlesborough 0

Bournemouth's Matt Ritchie battles it out with Liverpool's English midfielder Cameron Brannagan
Bournemouth's Matt Ritchie battles it out with Liverpool's English midfielder Cameron Brannagan
Wayne Rooney makes his way back to the centre circle asfter missing from the peanlty spot

Jason Burt

Middlesbrough win 3-1 on pens

In front of their 10,000 passionate, committed, relentless away supporters Middlesbrough earned a remarkable and courageous League Cup victory at Manchester United.

The Championship club triumphed 3-1 in a penalty shoot-out - with Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick and Ashley Young all missing for United - after holding their opponents to a goalless draw through the 90 minutes of normal time and into extra-time.

Their prize is a quarter-final clash against Everton. It was no less than Boro deserved as they created chances of their own and fought with a rare passion to progress into the last eight of this competition. Their fans never gave up. Neither did their team.

It started with a similar wall of sound from the Boro supporters; then the protest. In the 10th minute they shone the lights from their mobile phones in a public display of solidarity with those steelworkers - as many as 1,700 - who are expected to lose their jobs following the closure of the SSI plant in Redcar. The lights twinkled starlike across vast swathes of Old Trafford.

It was the largest turnout of away fans inside this stadium since 11,400 Coventry City supporters saw their team's League Cup victory in September 2007. Would there be another upset? Would Boro manage to emulate their exploits from last season when they beat Manchester City in the FA Cup?

The significant prizes for both clubs lie elsewhere. Ambition at Boro is promotion, and they made five changes. The alteration of the United line-up was even more dramatic with only Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo preserved from the goalless draw at home to City three days ago.

But it was some bench deployed by Louis van Gaal - six of the seven had started against City - who, surely, with Arsenal and Chelsea exiting this competition 24 hours earlier, sensed there was an opportunity; if they could break Boro down.

Aitor Karanka's tactics were clear. His team sat in, invited United to have the ball and tried to counter quickly.

They did just that and should have taken the lead after Grant Leadbitter lifted the ball into the United penalty area. Emilio Nsue miscued his overhead kick but it ran to George Friend. From close range, with a clear sight of goal, the defender sidefooted weakly at Sergio Romero.


Before that Jesse Lingard had been fortunate to escape a caution, or even worse, as he lunged into Leadbitter. It was a poor challenge and was the only mark United left in the opening quarter as they struggled to find any fluency or pose any threat.

Both Memphis Depay, who was careless in possession, and eased off the ball more than once, and James Wilson were peripheral, with the visitors growing in confidence and control.

United's struggle to impose themselves was summed up when Matteo Darmian, an Italian international, was pulled up for a woeful foul throw. It was that careless and already felt like Van Gaal would have to turn to those on his bench to try to introduce some element of threat. And urgency.

Finally there was a glimpse of goal with the ball fed through to Wilson by Marouane Fellaini but his shot, under pressure, lacked power and was easily fielded by goalkeeper Tomás Mejías before Friend threw himself to block an effort from Fellaini who had chested down a cross.

For Boro, Kike did well to latch onto Daniel Ayala's long ball forward, evading Daley Blind, but the angle for his shot was ambitious and Romero took it comfortably before the goalkeeper was tested by a superb rising drive from Stewart Downing from 25 yards. The Argentinian keeper pushed the ball over the crossbar at full stretch.

Wilson gave way - a disappointing night for him although, surely, he should have been afforded more than just 45 minutes? - with Rooney introduced, to lead the attack, and maybe also restart his own season.

United were almost gifted a goal. The ball ran to Depay, from Andreas Pereira's challenge, and he shot low from outside the area. Mejías blocked.

It came as United were suddenly more aggressive, pressing more quickly and higher up the pitch but they were almost caught out as the ball ricocheted around their area, falling to Kike whose shot struck the post, rebounding to Blind, who somehow fired into his own net. As Boro celebrated Kike was flagged offside.

Depay miskicked, after a run into the area, both Fellaini and Pereira shot straight at Mejias before, incredibly, Romero let Blind's backpass to him run closer and closer to goal before, with Kike closing in, it went narrowly past the post. Romero did better to turn away Leadbitter's fierce shot at the other post.

United appealed for a penalty, claiming handball as a cross struck Ayala, and Van Gaal threw on Anthony Martial before Smalling could not direct a header on goal. It flew wide.

Then United struck the post. It came as Rooney inadvertently headed across goal and it ran to Lingard, whose first-time shot, from a tight angle, cannoned off the near post before, immediately, Boro broke with Leadbitter clear - only for the midfielder to lift his shot into Romero's arms as the goalkeeper advanced.

Then in injury-time Downing volleyed powerfully but straight at Romero who held on. But neither side could break the deadlock, even in extra-time, and it all came down to the shootout. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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