6:00am Monday 24th March 2014
By Paul Fraser
DEFLATED Dimi Konstantopoulos has been reassured that Aitor Karanka maintains faith in him after suffering one of the worst moments of his professional career at the Riverside Stadium.
The Middlesbrough goalkeeper, who has been impressing enough to be considered for a new deal in recent weeks, suffered the humiliation of conceding a freak goal in the dying stages of Saturday's Championship encounter with Queens Park Rangers.
With Middlesbrough drawing with the Londoners, a routine back pass from Kenneth Omeruo in the direction of his team-mate lifted up off the surface and evaded the Greek's swinging foot after hitting a huge bobble.
Konstantopoulos' missed kick on the edge of his penalty area rolled perfectly into the path of QPR substitute Bobby Zamora, who could simply tap in to the empty net.
That arrived four minutes in to added time and, with Middlesbrough's players despondent, Ravel Morrison made things worse by adding a third with virtually the last kick of the game.
Konstantopoulos, who had made a number of saves during the game, was devastated and found support from within the dressing room despite knowing the outlandish incident has left Middlesbrough 14 points shy of the play-off places.
“I went straight in and spoke to Dimi,” said defender George Friend. “I patted him on the back, gave him a high five. He is a really likeable character, he has a lot of respect, he is one of the more mature players. He will be alright.
“He made some excellent saves as well before that. It was such a shame. It was a horrible moment.”
The Zamora goal stemmed from a Middlesbrough attack which saw Friend shoot inches wide. When the ball bounced back from the advertising board, QPR goalkeeper Robert Green took a quick goal-kick against the wishes of Harry Redknapp.
Despite the kick failing to find its intended target, the turn of events ended with Zamora slotting in. Friend said: “Rob Green is an experienced goalkeeper, he probably knew everyone was in their half, he probably noticed I was on the floor after my shot. They had a good chance to break.
“I did hear that Redknapp was fuming he had done it. Those are the fine margins. That little bobble which has gifted them the goal ... there's no blame on Dimi at all. He has been fantastic, as has every goalkeeper we have had behind us this season.”
Karanka uttered similar comments immediately after the game, suggesting that he is ready to stick by Konstantopoulos when Middlesbrough head for Huddersfield Town tomorrow night.
Boro’s Danny Graham and Lee Tomlin show their frustration after Dimi Konstantopoulos’ mistake led to Bobby Zamora making it 2-1 in injury time at the Riverside Stadium. QPR added another to win 3-1
The latest result means Boro have enjoyed just one win from their last 11 matches; form which has left them 14 points adrift of the top six. With nine matches remaining, play-off hopes appear dead.
But Friend said: “The manager keeps stressing it is not over until it is mathematically impossible. How can we say anything other. If we keep playing like we did here we will get the results no problem.”
Middlesbrough did play well in the first half, making life difficult for QPR and deserved to be a goal up courtesy of Friend's 18th minute opener. However, after Yossi Benayoun equalised moments before half-time, Middlesbrough were unable to see the game through.
Friend said: “It is a cruel game and we don't seem to be getting much luck. We have to move on and we have a lot of games in quick succession. We have to move on.
“I thought we were the better side. QPR can't argue with that. The first half was the best we have played since Burnley on Boxing Day. It is gutting to feel like we do, everyone has seen how we all felt. It is horrible.
“Whatever happened, a bobble, whatever, it's horrible. I looked to find my man and I turned round and Zamora was tapping in. We have to try to remain positive.”
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