Middlesbrough 3 Charlton 0 - Boro build on Red Devils cup joy

Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka
Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka
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Karel Fraeye’s first game as interim Charlton manager ended in defeat as promotion-chasing Middlesbrough eased to a 3-0 Sky Bet Championship success.

David Nugent, Albert Adomah and Daniel Ayala grabbed the goals at the Riverside to ensure fourth-placed Boro kept up the pressure on the automatic promotion places.

Aitor Karanka’s men headed into the game on a high following their Capital One Cup win at Manchester United on Wednesday.

Yet the feel-good factor soon dissipated during a drab opening period as Middlesbrough were frustrated by opponents lacking endeavour.

Charlton’s dogged resistance was finally broken in the 60th minute when Nugent finished coolly at the end of a fine move.

The floodgates opened thereafter as Adomah and Ayala inflicted further misery on the Addicks, who remained in the relegation zone.

Boro began like a team brimming with confidence following their midweek heroics, with Adomah looking dangerous.

Stewart Downing had the first real threatening effort when seeing a goal-bound curler nodded over by Patrick Bauer.

The winger continued to put pressure on a Charlton side looking devoid of ideas, curling narrowly over from 20 yards.

Middlesbrough’s dominance was showing few signs of abating, with a well-worked move between Adomah and Emilio Nsue ending when the former supplied Nugent - who forced a smart save from Stephen Henderson.

Karanka’s side were enjoying 80 per cent of possession and their efforts almost brought reward as Diego Fabbrini’s fizzing effort was turned over by Henderson.

However, Charlton continued to make life difficult by stubbornly defending in numbers.

Even when the hosts did break the resistance they were let down by poor finishing, with Fernando Amorebieta scooping over from Downing’s pull-back.

Amorebieta spurned a glorious chance immediately after half-time when seeing a powerful strike denied by Henderson.

That heralded another spell of Boro dominance, with Downing’s deflected strike flying into the side-netting.

A well-deserved opener finally came on the hour mark, though, when Fabbirni cushioned Adam Clayton’s cross into the path of Nugent, who controlled and slotted into the corner.

Suddenly attacking with more verve, they almost grabbed an immediate second as Bruno Zuculini rattled the post with a stunning 25-yard strike.

Middlesbrough added another moments later, Adomah cutting in from the right wing before seeing his deflected effort fly into the top corner.

That appeared to take the wind completely out of Charlton’s sails, although the ruthless hosts continued to drive forward.

Adam Clayton saw an effort from distance just miss the target, before Ayala nodded home a third.

The centre-back rose highest in the area to guide a superb header into the top corner from the impressive Downing’s set-piece.

Adomah was denied by Henderson with nine minutes remaining, but it mattered little as Boro took the spoils.

Boro manager Aitor Karanka termed his side’s performance as “almost perfect”.

He said: “I said yesterday that it wasn’t going to be an easy game because it is difficult to play Manchester United on Wednesday and then play here.

“I thought the first goal was the key. When we scored the game became much easier.

“It was almost perfect. You can always improve but it’s difficult to find a fault. We’ve won, had a clean sheet and didn’t pick up injuries or suspensions.

“We’re almost averaging two points per game and are in the quarter-finals of the cup, so we are where we wanted to be.

“But we have another important game on Tuesday [against Rotherham], so we have to recover from this today.”

Karanka was particularly pleased with the performance of midfielder Bruno Zuculini, who has impressed since joining on loan from Manchester City.

He said: “He arrived five days ago, played at Old Trafford and has played today. He’s looked like he has been here all season.

“I think that shows how good and strong this team is and also the character Bruno has. I am really pleased for him.”