Chaos in the six-yard box leading to a single Diego Costa goal made for a disappointed, but not disheartened Middlesbrough after a pleasing performance against Chelsea, the new Premier League leaders after a 1-0 win. Boro more than held their own and pulled out all the stops defensively, but were caught out after a lack of concentration and a melee in the box gave Costa the chance to stab home the winner. Head coach Aitor Karanka will be pleased with the work rate in what was an entertaining tie, but concerns will continue to be raised around Boro's lack of goals.
Boro's beefed-up midfield -- with all three of mainstays Adam Clayton, Adam Forshaw and Marten de Roon -- as well as the star power of Gaston Ramirez plus Adama Traore's electric pace, meant that the home side were far more than just spectators. They largely matched Chelsea in terms of work rate, possession and confidence, but lack of bite in the box was once again telling.
While Karanka is right to not yet be worrying about his side's league placement, just above the drop zone, he needs to figure out a way to guarantee some goals. While the defence is rather good, it's just a part of the story and Alvaro Negredo does not look to be the man who can score enough times to assure Premier League survival. Despite a solid overall performance, Boro should have given Antonio Conte's men more to worry about given the possession that they had, especially in the first half.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Karanka fielded a punchy side who were quick off the blocks and worked hard until the last. He also made good moves with key substitutions around the 70-minute mark to help keep up pace and momentum. Yet again, though, fans will question why the boss didn't give Jordan Rhodes a go given that Negredo under-performed yet again and that finding the back of the net is Boro's key problem.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Victor Valdes, 8 -- The keeper is now in full flow and has adapted to life as a Premier League goalkeeper. He kept the home side in it with a number of key saves and communication was good with centre-back Ben Gibson.
DF Antonio Barragan, 6 -- The Spaniard worked hard but was often caught narrow and so much of Chelsea's attack came through his flank. He was protected a lot by teammate De Roon and he did link up well with Traore going forward.
DF Ben Gibson, 8 -- His performance was a marvel to watch with his trademark cool head, assured command of his area and plenty of brave clearances in the face of a flurry of Chelsea attackers.
DF Calum Chambers, 6 -- Did well in the face of some of the world's best strikers and midfielders but sometimes panicked when getting the ball out of danger areas -- he was not quite as collected as his counterpart Gibson.
DF Fabio, 6 -- Featuring for the first time since August in place of injured George Friend, Fabio was strong on the left and was quick to connect with an enthusiastic Ramirez on the break.
MF Adam Clayton, 6 -- Made his mark on the game with a consistent performance in the centre of the park but often struggled to cope with the excellent Victor Moses.
MF Adam Forshaw, 7 -- Helped by Clayton with the unenviable task of keeping Moses under wraps, Forshaw put in another cool and classy display.
MF Gaston Ramirez, 7 -- Was the star of the show for the Teessiders, his never-say-die attitude helping to maintain the tempo and little sparks of magic keeping the pressure on.
MF Adama Traore, 6 -- Once again brought his zingy pace into play, passing multiple Chelsea men with each mazy run, but he desperately needs to fix up his end product. Boro fans rue the moment he found himself in a great position after taking Chelsea on, only to fire the ball into row Z.
MF Marten de Roon, 8 -- Was brilliant once again, his tiger-like attitude getting the defence out of a mess on more than one occasion and making him a must-start for every fixture now.
FW Alvaro Negredo, 5 -- Largely anonymous and fluffed his lines with a weak shot straight at Thibaut Courtois after a stunning knock-down from Traore's ranging pass.
MF Stewart Downing, 6 -- Slotted in nicely to a tiring midfield on 70 minutes and worked hard to keep Boro in it in the final stages.
MF Viktor Fischer, NR -- Brought on to relieve a booked Clayton and help keep up momentum for the last 20 minutes.
MF Grant Leadbitter, NR -- The former skipper's introduction merely served to take the sting out of the dying exchanges as Boro settled for a humble 1-0 defeat.