Middlesbrough 0-0 Leicester City: Boro held at home by the Champions

Middlesbrough 0-0 Leicester City: Boro held at home by the Champions

Neither side managed to create many chances as the game finished goalless.

Joe Nicholson

Middlesbrough failed to turned a large amount of second half possession into goals as they were held at home by Premier League champions Leicester.

Aitor Karanka’s side retained the ball for long periods but only managed a single shot on target, despite dominating after the interval.

In the end, it was little surprise that the game ended goalless. The Riverside crowd have seen just 19 goals this campaign - the fewest of any Premier League ground.

For both teams this was their second game in the space of three days and that was reflected by the team selections.

Both sides make five changes

Both managers made five changes after their respective games on New Year’s Eve. The most surprising one for the hosts came in goal where Brad Guzan made just his second start of the season, replacing Victor Valdes who picked up an injury against Manchester United.

There were also recalls for Fabio, Antonio Barragan, Adam Clayton and Gaston Ramirez, while captain Grant Leadbitter- who scored at Old Trafford dropped to the bench.

Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri also made five alterations, after the Foxes beat West Ham 1-0 last time out.

There was no place for goal scorer Islam Slimani, though, with the Algerian international reportedly feeling unwell.

With Jamie Vardy serving the final game of his three-match suspension, Shinji Okazaki and Leonardo Ulloa led the line in what looked like a narrow 4-1-2-1-2 formation, with Nampalys Mendy sitting at the base of a midfield diamond.

It was the visitors, who had not won away from home in the league all season, who made the brighter start.

A loose pass from Clayton on the half way line after eight minutes allowed the Leicester to counter, however when the ball found Fuchs on the edge of the penalty area, the Austrian dragged his shot wide.

Traore looks dangerous but lacks a final product

Boro’s best route to goal appeared to be through Adama Traore on the right-hand-side. In the 20th minute the pacey winger calved out the best chance of the game when he skipped past King and teed up Marten De Roon with a low cross, however the Dutch midfielder blazed his effort over the bar.

The game was crying out for a moment of quality, and with both sides reluctant to give up any territorial ground, the midfield area became congested and chaotic- resulting in several niggles and fouls.

As troublesome as Traore can be for defenders, it has been well documented that the 20-year-old’s final product is still not up to scratch.

That was evident when he beat Fuchs midway through the first half, however the winger’s cross went hopelessly out of play.

The hosts were dealt a blow moments later when Barragan went down with a hamstring injury and had to be replaced by George Friend.

That meant a reshuffle in defence, as Friend took up his natural left back position while Fabio moved across to right back.

The Brazilian defender came to Boro’s rescue seven minutes before the break when Okazaki slipped a clever pass through to Mahrez inside the area, but the Leicester playmaker was denied by Fabio’s last ditch challenge.

Boro fail to make second half pressure count

The half time interval appeared to revitalise Boro, who went on the attack in the early stages of the second half.

They were almost rewarded when Friend showed off his attacking instincts by charging forward from full back, before whipping a low cross into the area. However, there was no one there to apply the finishing touch.  

At the other end, Guzan needed to be alert to keep out Ulloa’s header from a rare Leicester corner.

Friend continued to deliver accurate crosses into the opposition’s box, however there were never enough red shirts in the area to make one count.

With eight minutes to go, the ball dropped to Ramirez inside the area, however the Uruguayan’s effort skimmed the side netting.

The Foxes nealry dealt out a late sucker punch when the ball dropped loose inside the Boro penalty area, however Guzan was able to gather.