7:00am Monday 24th March 2014
By Paul Fraser
Full-time: Middlesbrough 1 Queens Park Rangers 3
AS Robert Green punted a quick goal-kick upfield in the fourth minute of added time at the Riverside Stadium, Harry Redknapp and his assistant Kevin Bond made it clear what they thought of his decision.
After watching George Friend threaten to win it for Boro, Redknapp had clearly made up his mind that he was happy enough with a point on Teesside after the latest frustrating afternoon for Queens Park Rangers.
Yet, despite seeing Green's punt eventually land at the feet of a Middlesbrough man, Redknapp's anger suddenly turned in to delight and celebration. After Jozsef Varga's header dropped to Kenneth Omeruo, the Nigerian rolled it on again towards Dimi Konstantopoulos.
With Bobby Zamora approaching, Konstantopoulos' attempt to kick went horribly wrong when it bobbled en route. The ball ended up heading in to the path of Zamora, who had the simple task of tapping QPR ahead.
While Redknapp, grateful for the huge stroke of luck, punched the air in delight, Aitor Karanka was left to rue another match when he felt misfortune was the only reason his side failed to beat a Championship rival.
“The history of this team since I have been here has been the same,” said Karanka. “Nottingham Forest scored a goal with a hand in the last game. There were things that happened against us in the games with Blackburn, Leeds, there are more … they were the same sort of games as this one.
“It is difficult because this is another game where we have not got what we think we deserved. I am working hard and nothing more or less. We have lost again and hopefully things will change.”
Either side of an unbeaten six-match winning run in the league a few months ago, Karanka has often been left perplexed by events and the outcomes of Middlesbrough's matches.
At the beginning of his reign he saw Jason Steele red carded during a 2-1 defeat at Leeds United, where Middlesbrough played reasonably well. The manner of Saturday's reversal was much harder to bear.
His seventh defeat from the 22 games he has had in charge was suffered after conceding three goals for the first time under his management. The last time Middlesbrough leaked three in a match, at Barnsley in October, it cost Tony Mowbray his job.
There is no such threat this time, but Karanka is far from satisfied with the results – even if he was happier with the performance levels of his team.
“It's easy to explain but difficult to understand why we have lost,” said Karanka. “We had the last chance of the 90 minutes yet we still conceded a goal in the way we did, then we conceded another one. It is really difficult to understand. We have to look to Tuesday (at Huddersfield), it is another game.
“I can't believe it. We have not deserved to lose again. We didn't even deserve to draw. We deserved to win. We had a chance in the last minute to win the game yet we ended up losing. It is hard to understand.”
The defeat leaves Middlesbrough 14 points shy of the play-off places with just 27 points to play for. When George Friend, excellent down the left-flank, burst in to the area and fired Middlesbrough ahead in the 18th minute everything looked rosy.
Middlesbrough passed it around confidently and QPR had been unable to threaten Konstanopoulos' goal after his double save to deny Joey Barton and Tom Carroll inside the first 60 seconds.
But then Yossi Benayoun pulled things level moments before half-time. Dean Whitehead played him just onside to power in a loose ball which dropped his way following a blocked Niko Kranjcar shot.
Neither side really took command after the restart. Middlesbrough looked the better of the two teams even if very little was created in the penalty box until late on.
George Friend celebrates putting Boro ahead
Friend thought he had won it in the dying seconds with his volley from the edge of the area. Then QPR broke, Zamora scored before Ravel Morrison hit a lovely third in the 96th minute of play inside the far corner.
Karaka cut a frustrated figure. But he said: “I have been happy with 85 or 90 per cent of the games here with my players' attitudes. That is the most important thing.
“I am here to win games but I am sure our luck will change and we will score goals in the last minute and not make a mistake like this one.
“I can't say anything to Dimi after that. Dimi has played very well in the games he has played for me. I am happy with him. That's all I can say.”
Even Green, the former England goalkeeper who has had his fair share of blunders over the years, felt for his opposite number.
He said: "It's not pleasant for anyone. It's happened to me before, and I've turned around and seen the other goalkeeper celebrating. I try to make a conscious effort to have mutual respect for my fellow professionals.
“It's nice to win games of football, but there are ways of doing it. Sometimes these things happen for you, and sometimes they go against you.”
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