Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka hit out at the officials after his side were denied the chance to take a decisive step towards the Premier League.
Ritchie De Laet encapsulates Middlesbrough’s frustration at the final whistle against Birmingham City as they had to settle for a share of the points. Photograph: JMP/REX/Shutterstock
Daniel Ayala’s second-half strike was clearly shown by replays to have been wrongly ruled out for offside as Boro were held to a 2-2 draw at Birmingham City.
Instead Boro moved a mere single point clear at the top of the Championship with their destiny still in their own hands as they play promotion rivals Brighton on the final day of the season.
But Karanka took no solace from that and afterwards questioned why Ayala’s goal was disallowed, adding that he feels his side have been on the wrong end of a few bad decisions during the run-in.
He said: “Normally in football when you score one more goal than the opponent you win the game. It didn’t happen because Daniel’s goal was disallowed and I can’t understand why. I prefer to think it’s a mistake, but what makes me concerned is a few mistakes have come against us. I feel we have played in different conditions than other teams.
“We knew it was a goal, so I don’t need an explanation, but the only thing I want is to play in the same conditions.
“We’ve had a lot [of decisions] against us. For example we are the only team who have lost a player for three games, like [Cristhian] Stuani when the referee didn’t see anything [after he was banned for violent conduct retrospectively this month]. Today it was the goal, three weeks ago it was a player suspended for three games.” Brighton host Derby on Monday while second-placed Burnley welcome QPR, leaving Boro with an anxious wait to discover the results with both sides just a point behind them.
Jordan Rhodes, after City goalkeeper Adam Legzdins’ error, and Gastón Ramírez had put the visitors 2-1 ahead following Stephen Gleeson’s opener in a pulsating game.
Karanka said: “I have to be pleased with the performance because the team showed attitude. I told them last season we played the [play-off] final at Wembley and this season we have the final at the Riverside with our crowd and a better squad.”
David Davis rescued a point for mid-table Birmingham, who are aiming to seal a top-10 finish after seeing their play-off challenge falter, with a neat finish in the second half. But manager Gary Rowett admitted Ayala’s goal should have stood and believes they have had an impact on the destination of the title.
“It was a great game, a great advert for the Championship and we have played our part to potentially defining who gets promoted this season,” he said. “Burnley are in the best position, form wise, although Brighton have been scoring a lot.
“You would expect Middlesbrough at home, needing to win at home, to have enough to do it. We’ve done our bit; whoever the best teams are will be the ones to go up.”