TONY MOWBRAY rued Middlesbrough’s lack of a cutting edge as the Teessiders suffered their first defeat of the season last night – exiting the Carling Cup at Crystal Palace.
“I can’t complain about the effort,” said boss Mowbray after the 2-1 third round loss at Selhurst Park.
“For long spells, we were the ones trying to create the goals but you’ve got to stick the ball in the net.
“Palace are a good counter-attacking team, we gave the ball away sloppily and all of a sudden they are attacking and Zaha scores.
“He’s a talented young boy but we had no special plans for him. I don’t watch him every week but I’m pretty sure he blows hot and cold, when he’s hot he’s pretty hot and when he’s cold he probably gets substituted.
“We were going to lose at some stage this season and we found out at the weekend this is a very difficult place to come, but I’m comfortable with the way we applied ourselves to the game.”
Teenage winger Wilfried Zaha scored Palace’s 19th-minute opener to enhance his blossoming reputation when he collected a through-ball from fellow youngster Jonathan Williams and lashed it past Danny Coyne.
Glenn Murray hit the crossbar just after the break but the second goal did come in the 52nd minute when Zaha’s deep cross found Calvin Andrew at the far post.
The former Luton striker planted his header back over Coyne and although Boro defender Stephen McManus helped it over the line, no-one was going to tell Andrew the goal was not his.
Three minutes later, Merouane Zemmama halved the deficit but Boro could not find an equaliser and slipped to their first defeat of the season.
“Wilfried was fantastic,” said Palace boss Dougie Freedman, whose men avenged Saturday’s 1-0 Championship loss to Boro.
“He’s getting better every time we see him, but he knows that’s through the hard work he is putting in in training.
“We spoke about being a team tonight and I felt we were, we worked as individuals for the team. Middlesbrough pass it well and make you work hard but we were up for that challenge.
“Calvin doesn’t score many goals because he doesn’t get many chances to play, but when he does he puts in the effort and he scored a great goal.”
CRYSTAL PALACE: Price, Marrow, McCarthy, Gardner, Moxey, Zaha (Scannell 86), Williams (Ramage 66), O’Keefe, Parr, Andrew, Murray (Iversen 74). Subs not used: Speroni, Jedinak, Easter, Caprice. Booked: Murray, Price. Goals: Zaha 18, Andrew 52
MIDDLESBROUGH: Coyne, McMahon (Bates 46), McManus, R Williams, Hoyte, Zemmama, Thomson, Smallwood (Emnes 67), Arca (Haroun 67), McDonald, Nimely. Subs not used: Ripley, Bailey, Kink, Halliday. Booked: McMahon, Arca. Goal: Zemmama 55. Att: 5,448. Ref: Graham Scott (Oxfordshire)