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Ipswich Town 1-1 Middlesbrough - Half-Time
Saturday, 13th Apr 2024 16:06

Massimo Luongo netted against his old side to level following Emmanuel Latte Lath’s opener for Middlesbrough to leave the Blues and Boro 1-1 at half-time at Portman Road.

Striker Ali Al-Hamadi was handed his full Town debut as Kieran McKenna made six changes from the team which drew 0-0 at home to Watford on Wednesday.

Al-Hamadi came into the XI for Kieffer Moore, who dropped to the bench, with Luke Woolfenden taking over from the injured George Edmundson at the heart of the defence and Axel Tuanzebe for Harry Clarke, who was absent from the 20-man squad, at right-back.

Luongo took over from Jack Taylor, who was among the subs, in the centre of midfield with Jeremy Sarmiento and Conor Chaplin coming into the three behind Al-Hamadi for Kayden Jackson and Nathan Broadhead, who were on the bench.

For Boro, Sam Silvera replaced Sam Greenwood in a team otherwise unchanged from the 2-2 draw at Hull City in midweek with former Town defender Matt Clarke at the centre of their defence.

The Blues started brightly, dominating the ball in the early stages and created their first opportunity in the sixth minute. Sarmiento reacted quickly to nip in front of a defender on the left and cut the ball back towards Al-Hamadi, but the ball was turned behind just before it reached the striker.

The Blues went even closer from the resultant corner, Leif Davis sending in a low ball to the near post from where Conor Chaplin shot powerfully but over the bar.

Town threatened again in the 10th minute, Omari Hutchinson, playing on the right of the three behind the striker, feeding Sarmiento, who took it on a few paces before hitting a shot straight at Seny Dieng in the visitors’ goal.

Two minutes later, Sarmiento, who was making a terrific start to the match, twisted and turned his way past defenders on the edge of the area on the left before cutting along the 18-yard line to Chaplin, who rather scuffed his effort wide.

The Teessiders threatened for the first time in the 14th minute, Isaiah Jones breaking away down the left past Hutchinson with Tuanzebe upfield, but his cross-shot was batted away by Vaclav Hladky in the Town goal and Morsy completed the clearance.

But it was still mainly Town and in the 17th minute Morsy exchanged passes with Sarmiento on the left of the area and although the return was overhit, the Ecuadorian was able to cross deep from the byline. The ball reached Chaplin but the forward was unable to find the target while at a stretch.

However, on 20, the Teessiders went in front. Morsy played back to Hladky following a Middlesbrough attack and the keeper failed to get much distance on the ball. Eventually, it was played wide to Luke Ayling on the right and the former Leeds man sent over a cross towards the far post from where Emmanuel Latte Lath rose between two defenders to nod past Hladky and into the net to the keeper’s left.

After a quiet spell after conceding, Town should have levelled in the 28th minute. Cameron Burgess sent Davis away down the left and the Newcastle-born left-back chopped inside his man before cutting into the middle. Chaplin missed it but it reached Hutchinson on the edge of the area at the back of the box from where the on-loan Chelsea forward curled a shot only just over the bar.

The Blues were getting back into their stride and two minutes later had a strong claim for a penalty when Tuanzebe burst down the right and saw his cross cut out by what the Town players claimed was a Boro hand, and they may have had a case.

However, that controversy was soon forgotten with the Blues getting back on terms from the subsequent corner.

Davis whipped the ball over from the right and Luongo, who joined the Blues in January 2022 after leaving Boro without playing a game in half a season on Teesside, showed far more desire than a visitors defender at the far post to kung-fu kick goalwards, the ball striking the bar, the ground, both the bar and the ground again before hitting the roof of the net to send Portman Road wild.

The Australian’s third goal of the season saw the crowd up the volume in the following minutes and the Blues almost went in front on 32.

Sarmiento was played in down the middle by Chaplin and dinked the ball over the advancing Dieng. The ball was creeping towards goal, just outpacing the retreating Boro defenders but struck the post.

Al-Hamadi was first to the rebound and, with Hutchinson screaming for the ball to be played back to him, the Iraqi international tried a back-heeled effort which was blocked.

With Town still dominating, a long spell of Blues possession ended with Luongo stabbing a 38th-minute effort through to Dieng. Two minutes later, Chaplin seized on a loose Middlesbrough pass in their own half and tried to catch Dieng off his line but was off-target with his effort.

The Blues were, however, susceptible to Boro breaks and in the 44th minute Silvera was sent away in space on the left. The Australian international’s cross struck Burgess - on the arm according to the visitors’ vehement appeals - and fell to Latte Lath, free just beyond the penalty spot, but his shot was just palmed behind by Hladky.

Town had another claim for a spot-kick in the first of two minutes of added-on time, Rav van den Berg sliding in on Chaplin and not appearing to win the ball. However, referee Sam Allison showed no interest.

That, aside from a Boro corner which the Blues defended competently, was the last action of an entertaining but, for Town fans, very nervy first half.

The Blues had started very positively and had had chances to go in front before Boro took the lead against the run of play.

Town had a quieter spell after conceding but had regained their earlier impetus by the time Luongo netted what will have been a very sweet goal, not just in the context of the game but given his history with the Teessiders.

Sarmiento really should have put Town in front with his chance and from there Town had been on top, but while leaving space in behind for Boro, who had looked a danger on the counter-attack all half, to break into.

The Blues will feel they might have been awarded two penalties, the late tackle on Chaplin certainly appeared a good shout, while Boro were similarly adamant they should have had one for the handball not long before the whistle.

Town: Hladky, Tuanzebe, Woolfenden, Burgess, Davis, Morsy (c), Luongo, Hutchinson, Chaplin, Sarmiento, Al-Hamadi. Subs: Walton, Ball, Travis, Taylor, Humphreys, Harness, Broadhead, Jackson, Moore.

Middlesbrough: Dieng, Van den Berg, Clarke, Latte Lath, Jones, Ayling, Howson (c), Silvera, Azaz, Engel, O’Brien. Subs: Jones, Barlaser, Gilbert, Dijksteel, Bangura, Greenwood, Thomas, McCabe, Finch. Referee: Sam Allison (Wiltshire).

Photo: Matchday Images

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