No one will have savoured the fact that Middlesbrough’s 1-1 draw with Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium followed just four days after Barcelona’s 3-1 defeat there more than visiting manager Aitor Karanka. As Jose Mourinho’s assistant at Real Madrid, the Spaniard sat opposite Pep Guardiola in many “Clasicos” and added spice to the build-up at the Etihad Stadium by suggesting that his former boss was superior to City’s manager in most respects.
But Karanka is starting to earn his own plaudits with Middlesbrough following last season’s promotion and now successive away draws at Arsenal and City.
The normally deadpan Boro manager was almost animated at the end of the game after Martin de Roon equalised with a stoppage-time header, hailing his team’s resilience in turning the game round.
Karanka must take credit for changing the course of a game in which City had 19 chances on target in the first half and none in the second.
“It was an amazing result because in the first half we went on to the pitch with too much respect for them,” said Karanka, whose side rose to 14th in the table.
“I told them at halftime we weren’t just there to defend and that we could play like we did in the second half. I was pleased with our performance.
“Two weeks ago at Arsenal was more difficult than today because Arsenal didn’t score and we were organised. Our reaction was really good and it is a big step to showing how good we are.”
Guardiola denied that City had suffered a Barcelona hangover.
“Not really, we started amazing and played really good in the first half,” he said.
“We have to close the game with second or third goal and we couldn’t do that. We created six or seven chances and didn’t score.”
City have now dropped six points in their last three home games, a damning statistic that Guardiola knows is not good enough.
“It is a miss but we are still there, we have to move forward,” he said.
To win the league, City cannot afford to let teams come back at them like this.
Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero both missed chances to put the result beyond doubt.
The longer the game went on without a second City goal, the bigger the danger that Boro would make them pay late on, and so it proved.
City have two weeks before their next game, away to Crystal Palace on Nov. 19. Guardiola will be expecting a much more clinical performance.