Michael Carrick urges Middlesbrough players to embrace the challenge at Chelsea

By Sports Desk January 10, 2024

Middlesbrough boss Michael Carrick has told his players to embrace the challenge of walking into the lion’s den at Chelsea with a place in the Carabao Cup final at stake.

Boro head coach Carrick saw his team secure a 1-0 first-leg lead at the Riverside Stadium on Wednesday evening, which will send them to Stamford Bridge on January 23 with something to defend.

The Sky Bet Championship promotion hopefuls had to endure a tide of pressure on their own pitch to emerge with a clean sheet, and they can expect an onslaught on a night when a repeat would send them to Wembley.

 

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However Carrick, whose side lost 1-0 to Chelsea’s Premier League counterparts Aston Villa in the FA Cup third round at the weekend, said: “It’s embracing it.

“The last two games the boys have coped very, very well with Villa at the weekend and tonight, this being different because it’s obviously a lot further on in the competition and there was much more of an opportunity in this one with the expectations, the hope, the challenge that they faced.

“I couldn’t have hoped or asked for anything more. I keep saying the next one is a totally different one, it’s a new challenge totally.

“The boys will be ready for it and we’ll be ready to perform. We’ll look forward to it and embrace the challenge because it’s an unbelievable challenge and position that we find ourselves in.”

Hackney’s 37th-minute strike, which came after Isaiah Jones had made the most of Dan Barlaser’s fine through ball, ultimately settled a game in which Mauricio Pochettino’s expensively-assembled side dominated possession, but failed to make the most of the chances they created with Cole Palmer passing up no fewer than three himself.

Enzo Fernandez and Moises Caicedo alone cost in excess of £220million, but along with Conor Gallagher, got little change out of a Boro midfield of Hackney, Barlaser and Jonny Howson to leave Carrick purring.

Asked if it was his best night yet as a manager, the 42-year-old former Manchester United and England midfielder said: !It’s as proud as I’ve been, I have to say again, of the players.

“Knowing what they’ve put in and how close a group they are and seeing the stadium supporting the lads right to the end when they needed that bit of help for the last 10 minutes or so, standing there and seeing that made me hugely proud, so it was a good night for that, a really good night for that and hopefully we can create some more of them in the future.”

Pochettino was measured after a disappointing night on Teesside, during which he admitted the Blues had been punished both for their mistakes and their profligacy in front of goal.

The Argentinian said: “I am disappointed because I think we deserved a different result, but sometimes you don’t play well and you win.

“For us, it’s like we need to play well, we need to score goals. We play well, but sometimes we are not clinical enough and sometimes we are punished. That is the process in this moment we are in.

“Always when you are building a team, this kind of scenario is tough because you not only need to play well, but you need to deserve and have some luck.”

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    An end-to-end encounter at the Riverside produced five goals in just the first half, starting with the hosts taking an early lead through Isaiah Jones.

    Leeds netted two goals in 11 minutes when Summerville slotted home from the spot and Patrick Bamford came back to haunt the Riverside after bundling a goal home.

    Emmanuel Latte Lath drew Boro level on the 30 minute mark but Wilfried Gnonto restored the visitors’ advantage in a frenetic first 45 minutes.

    Summerville bagged his second of the game after the break with a curling strike and there was late drama when Latte Lath scored a looping header in the 87th minute but Leeds held on for the three points.

    Reflecting on a thrilling clash, Farke believes his players showed “great mentality” to see out victory.

    He said: “First of all a good advertisement for Championship football, I think all the supporters have enjoyed the game.

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    “To start the game with this unlucky goal, deflected pass that normally wouldn’t have been a chance, they scored out of this.

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    “To show such a reaction in the first half to come back to create so many chances, to score fantastic goals, was great for us to have.

    “Compliments to Middlesbrough, they showed a fantastic performance, but great mentality from our players to lead 3-2 at half-time.

    “We needed to show some steel and resilience in the last minutes to dig in and grind out this important result for us and we did.

    “Many compliments for the heart, the mentality and the character of our players today and for their offensive quality.”

    The result means Leeds climb to second in the table, overtaking Ipswich who have three games left this season compared to the Yorkshire club’s two.

    Boro remain ninth in the table and boss Michael Carrick praised his side for their “incredible effort” but believes Gnonto’s goal, which appeared to be offside, was a “massive decision” in the game.

    “I enjoyed the game, I thought we did a lot of good things,” he said.

    “They’ve got some good quality and they’ve showed it all season. At the top end of the pitch they’re really dangerous.

    “I thought we defended largely in shape really well, we were really good with the ball and dominated and controlled large parts of the game.

    “I was really pleased with the boys and the effort was an incredible effort all the way to the end. We went for it, we had to go for it, we threw everything at them.

    “The offside goal is a massive decision. We asked the boys to defend well and hold the line together, the line’s impeccable really and I think there’s three of them in the line around the edge of the box hold the line.

    “You expect offsides given, which it was too clear not to be.”

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