Middlesbrough cruise past Port Vale to reach Carabao Cup semi-finals

Photograph: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Michael Carrick’s Middlesbrough vintage can now dream of emulating Steve McClaren’s class of 2004 by winning this competition and so double the Teesside club’s major trophy haul.

First, there is a semi-final to negotiate before the tilt at Wembley glory but for now they are entitled to picture themselves becoming Boro immortals to go along with the starry lineup of 19 years ago. The McClaren XI that beat Bolton 2-1 at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium featured Gareth Southgate, Mark Schwarzer, Gaizka Mendieta, Juninho and Boudewijn Zenden, whose seventh-minute penalty proved the winner.

Carrick’s lineup is far more modest but, as a two-time winner in the competition when a cultured Manchester United midfielder, he has invaluable knowledge he can impart to his players.

Related: Chelsea v Newcastle United: Carabao Cup quarter-final – live

Port Vale had never previously reached the League Cup quarter‑finals so, while they ended disappointed, they can still be proud following an evening in which, simply, their visitors’ greater class was the difference.

“Port Vale, this is the quarter-final of the Carabao Cup!” was the stadium MC’s salvo before a blast of Robbie Williams’s Let Me Entertain You that had the ground rocking.

The party mood, though, lasted precisely 12 minutes as Carrick’s men struck via Jonny Howson, whose 20-yard shot careered off Jason Lowe to give Connor Ripley no chance.

Silence – the jubilant travelling fans apart – for a moment, before the volume was upped again by the Vale faithful, who roared their men on at two corners from the left. Play broke from the second of these and Ethan Chislett hung a ball up. Jesse Debrah tried to unload but was thwarted.

At a third Vale corner – this one from the left – Middlesbrough broke via Emmanuel Latte Lath. He raced in along the left but, with Sammy Silvera begging to be picked out in front of goal, the No 9 dallied and Vale escaped.

They did not escape, though, when Silvera did receive the ball – because of a Conor Grant slip – and his delivery from the right was blazed home by an unmarked Morgan Rogers.

Vale, winded, needed to retain hope and did so when Chislett followed a surge down the left with a cross that Gavin Massey volleyed with a leap but his connection was wild and high. The issue for Andy Crosby’s men was how, in piling numbers forward, they were caught too often when giving the ball up. They had to gamble due to the score – but the prudent course was to bide their time.

Middlesbrough are 13th in the Championship but only six points from a playoff berth. Port Vale are 15th in the next division down and were illustrating why their goal difference is -11. When Matt Crooks jogged through as the break neared only a sliced hoof that sent the ball over, rather than a cool finish, saved them from staring at a 3-0 deficit.

After the away end sang “Ripley, Ripley, what’s the score?” to the visiting keeper, who is a Boro fan and son of Stuart – who was a winger at the Teesside club and is still a fan favourite – the third goal then sailed beyond him and in, Crooks’s aim from around 15 yards unerring, Rogers with the assist.

This came five minutes into the second period and was, surely, game over as Ripley now had to contend with more choruses of “What’s the score?” plus a hearty rendition of “He’s gonna cry in a minute”. There was, however, a sobering moment as Ollie Arblaster – on loan from Sheffield United – required treatment and was forced off with what appeared to be a serious injury.

Download the Guardian app from the iOS App Store on iPhone or the Google Play store on Android by searching for ‘The Guardian’.

If you already have the Guardian app, make sure you’re on the most recent version.

In the Guardian app, tap the Menu button at the bottom right, then go to Settings (the gear icon), then Notifications.

Turn on sport notifications.

Carrick’s side were in supreme control, tapping the ball about from the back to each wing, purring upfield at will and then moving back, shifting those in white shirts about as if they were Subbuteo figures. A raid along the left engineered space for Silvera to tease the ball between his feet and shoot but narrowly miss.

A multipass sequence impressed and made the contest resemble a Boro training exercise. And, then, a rare chance for Chislett came to nothing with a powder-puff effort that Tom Glover caught under no pressure in what was the Boro goalkeeper’s first bit of work.

The Vale congregation was becalmed – a telling sign of the opponent’s ascendancy – and many started to drift away on what was a cold night in the Potteries. You could hardly blame them because their side were still being schooled as this tie petered out.


Recommended For You

About the Author: soccernews