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Carayol suffers serious injury in Boro stalemate
Full-time: Bournemouth 0 Middlesbrough 0
A SERIOUS injury to Mustapha Carayol overshadowed a decent defensive effort from Middlesbrough as they claimed a goalless draw at Bournemouth.
A game of precious little goalmouth incident was drifting to a tame conclusion with one minute left when Carayol twisted awkwardly close to the corner flag and fell to the turf.
He eventually left the field with his left leg heavily strapped amid fears that he has damaged his knee ligaments.
The injury capped a disappointing afternoon for Boro, who lacked a cutting edge throughout as they failed to force Bournemouth goalkeeper Lee Camp into a single meaningful save.
The visitors were solid and defiant at the other end, however, with Ben Gibson and George Friend proving particularly effective as they helped secure another clean sheet.
Aitor Karanka made two changes from the Boro side that drew with Nottingham Forest on Tuesday, with Dean Whitehead and Albert Adomah replacing Nathaniel Chalobah and Emmanuel Ledesma.
Danny Graham continued as a lone striker, and the Sunderland loanee was certainly keen to get out of the blocks, blazing over from distance within the opening 30 seconds after picking up a loose ball close to the halfway line.
That proved a rare early shot at goal from either side, with defences dominating the opening quarter of the game and neither midfield enjoying much time or space with which to craft an opportunity.
Boro were fortunate to still have 11 men on the field after the 19th minute though, with Grant Leadbitter only receiving a yellow card despite clearly kicking Bournemouth midfielder Matt Ritchie.
Having fouled Leadbitter close to the halfway line, Ritchie clearly impeded his opponent as he attempted to get off the floor. However, that was no excuse for the kick that Leadbitter aimed at the back of Ritchie's leg, particularly as the offence took place right in front of the assistant referee.
Referee Fred Graham entered into a lengthy discussion with his assistant, before opting to book Leadbitter rather than dismiss him. It was undoubtedly a let off for the Boro midfielder.
There was another scare moments later as George Friend deflected Ian Harte's whipped free-kick narrowly over his own crossbar, and Boro were breathing nervously again five minutes before the break.
Dimi Konstantopoulos, who looked nervous and uncertain all afternoon, hesitated as he attempted to keep the ball inside the area under pressure from Lewis Grabban.
Uncertain whether to clear the ball with his feet or handle it, Konstantopoulos ultimately did neither and was robbed by Grabban, who rolled into an empty net.
Boro were reprieved by the referee's whistle, however, with Grabban penalised for a foul on the Greek goalkeeper. Again, it was an extremely borderline call.
Lee Tomlin was the visitors' best attacking outlet for the majority of the first half, with his hassling and harrying eliciting errors from the Bournemouth defence, but when a chance finally presented itself two minutes before the break, the January signing could only drill a half-volley well over the crossbar.
Andrew Surman was also unable to find the target with a similar opportunity in first-half stoppage time, and while Grabban finally recorded an effort on goal five minutes after the interval, his header from Matt Ritchie's cross looped harmlessly into Konstantopoulos' arms.
Boro made their first change shortly before the hour mark, with Chalobah replacing Tomlin, who was presumably still feeling the effects of the ankle injury he sustained in Tuesday's draw with Nottingham Forest.
The switch forced Leadbitter into more of an attacking midfield role, but Boro's second-half play was almost completely devoid of a cutting edge and, as a result, they failed to trouble Camp in the Bournemouth goal.
The Cherries weren't much more of an attacking threat, but Boro were indebted to an excellent challenge from Ben Gibson to prevent substitute Marc Pugh threatening in the 74th minute.
Eunan O'Kane slipped the ball to Pugh in the area, but Gibson threw himself to the floor to win possession just as the Bournemouth midfielder was shaping to shoot from six yards.
Four minutes later, and it was Konstantopoulos doing the good defensive work, with the goalkeeper tipping over full-back Simon Francis' rising long-range drive.
Graham came close with five minutes left, stabbing George Friend's low cross wide at the front post, but Konstantopoulos was called into action again as Bournemouth attempted to stage a rousing finale.
Surman cut in from the right-hand side, but Konstantopoulos turned the midfielder's curled strike around his right-hand upright.
Bournemouth (4-1-4-1): Camp; Francis, Cook, Elphick, Harte; O'Kane; Ritchie (Pugh 68), Arter, Surman (Rantie 88), Coulibaly (Fraser 58); Grabban.
Subs (not used): Allsop (gk), Smith, MacDonald, Pitman.
Middlesbrough (4-2-3-1): Konstantopoulos; Varga, Omeruo, Gibson, Friend; Leadbitter (Ledesma 76), Whitehead; Adomah, Tomlin (Chalobah 57), Carayol (Main 90); Graham.
Subs (not used): Steele (gk), Atkinson, Butterfield, L Williams.
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