Draws are almost as bad as defeats from a points perspective and it felt like a defeat at the Riverside today for me. Boro worked very hard for their point, but really we need to be going away to sides like them and taking all three points. The rested players were welcomed back into the side meaning that only Almunia, Djourou, Denilson, Song and Diaby kept their places.
Boro started with a full head of steam, but a recurring theme was that despite huffing and puffing frenetically at times they rarely looked like opening our defence up. The best early chance fell to RVP, unfortunately his chocolate foot was found wanting. Our only goal of the game when slack Boro defending left Ade free to head low into the net from our first corner. We then looked a side full of confidence, the second goal appeared on the cards, but alas it was not to be. Diaby shot low and hard after the ball broke for him at a corner.
A Clichy clearance took a wicked deflection and landed perfectly for Tuncay, he took a touch and then gambled by volleying a cross at full pace across the penalty box, the Gods were not with us and it found Aliadiere's head which deflected the ball past Almunia who had no chance at all. It was a great goal, but one has to say that on another day Tuncay's cross would have simply cannoned into touch. The goal shook us and gave Boro hope, it really was the pivotal moment of the game. Having said that RVP missed a great opportunity when Ade squared it to him with just the keeper to beat, unfortunately the ball was just a little bit too too far behind him and the opening was missed.
The second half was a frustrating affair, there were several recurring themes that have been seen at other games this season. Boro huffed but never really broke us down, they had one reasonable effort when Downing broke clear to force a good save from Almunia at his near post. The best chance of the half again fell to RVP, but he scuffed the ball just wide after a lovely little move. However there were just too many sloppy errors, we did not have the sharpness to take advantage of the class advantage. Bendtner typified that lack of ruthlessness in front of goal when he shot near post from a tight angle, another classic demonstration of where not to shoot, it had to go across the goal.
On the positive the defence looks so much more solid with young Johan Djourou at the back, he really is cementing himself in there for the long term. The problem with out side today was mainly in the midfield. Song did ok but was sloppy on occasions with his distribution, he did break up the play well and was strong in the tackle and in the air. Fabregas tried hard but there was little space for him in the middle of the park and he did let himself down at times with some loose touches. Denilson worked hard, but he's never going to give us much in the way of width, likewise Diaby.
Adebayor had a good game, he held the ball up well, and looked direct when he had the chance. RVP is still a bit of en enigma, he has seven goals so far this season but he really should have had at least double that, again today he spurned several great openings.
So it wasn't awful but it wasn't good enough, just a bit middle of the road if we're honest, bit it wouldn't have taken much to turn it into a victory. We created enough to have won the game, even though it was not a vintage performance, we simply have got to be better at taking our chances when they come along. It is a team game, we win and lose together, certainly no one deserves a scapegoating for today's performance. Football is easy to talk, you just need to score more than the opposition, unfortunately that's also what the opposition are thinking.