Middlesbrough 3 Bolton 0: Karanka delighted with ‘amazing first half’

Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka.

Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka.

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Head coach Aitor Karanka was delighted after Middlesbrough began to exorcise the demons of last season’s Sky Bet Championship play-off final defeat with a 3-0 triumph over Bolton.

Widely tipped for promotion having recruited impressively - most notably by signing Stewart Downing - Middlesbrough began their campaign with a drab goalless draw at Preston last Sunday.

However any thoughts of that result, or the harrowing 2-0 loss to Norwich at Wembley in May, were quickly extinguished as Karanka’s men easily collected the points on Saturday.

Karanka felt his players suffered from complacency at Deepdale, but there were no signs of a repeat as Middlesbrough entered the break 3-0 ahead after Kike’s double added to Diego Fabbrini’s spectacular opener.

“It could be the best half we’ve played in my time in charge,” said Karanka. “We played really well, especially considering we changed our shape just before the game after seeing Bolton’s team.

“It was an amazing first half. We played the way I want to play always.

“We have very good players and I have a very good squad. I told them before the game that last week was an example of us entering the game thinking it would be easy.

“We have to have the same attitude as this game, and we have to forget the final and last season.”

Karanka was particularly pleased for Kike, who - with Friday’s big-money arrival David Nugent watching from the bench - put a disappointing end to last season behind him by netting twice.

Karanka added: “We have a very good squad. Kike played today, but you look on the bench and see David Nugent.

“Players know they have to play well because there are other good players behind them.”

Karanka’s opposite number Neil Lennon took full responsibility for Bolton’s display, admitting he made a tactical blunder.

“I take full responsibility for the first half,” he said. “I set the team out that way - with three at the back - and it didn’t work.

“The players didn’t get to grips with it very well and we let Middlesbrough dictate the game.

“I accept the blame, but I still expect my players to compete and press. It’s a learning experience for me and I apologise to the supporters.

“We went with a back three, but there was a clear lack of understanding and Middlesbrough fully capitalised.”

The result means Bolton have not scored in their opening three games, with a draw against Derby followed by Tuesday’s loss to Burton and this comprehensive setback.

But Lennon refused to be downbeat, adding: “We had Derby to start with and Middlesbrough away and we have one point more than a lot of people might have thought.

“We have games coming up where I like to think that we will pick up a few points.”

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