Millwall 2-2 Middlesbrough: George Friend earns late point for Boro
Middlesbrough fight back from two goals down at The Den
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 04/08/18 6:44pm
George Friend struck in the seventh minute of time added-on as Middlesbrough hit back from two goals down to snatch a 2-2 draw at Millwall.
Boro, beaten semi-finalists in last season's play-offs, looked set for defeat on the opening day of the Championship season after falling behind to first-half goals from Aiden O'Brien and Lee Gregory.
But Martin Braithwaite gave the visitors hope when he struck home from close range in the 87th minute before Friend scrambled home from a free-kick to cap their comeback.
It was enough to spare the blushes of Boro defender Aden Flint, who had gifted Millwall their second, and seemingly decisive, goal with a dreadful mistake on debut.
Under no pressure at all in the 37th minute, Flint opted to head back towards goalkeeper Darren Randolph despite Gregory lurking in between.
The header lacked pace, and Gregory nipped in, touched the ball under Randolph and converted into an empty net.
By that time O'Brien had already put Millwall ahead, converting after 12 minutes following fine interplay from Gregory and Steve Morison down the right.
Boro, tipped by many for promotion, never really looked like finding a way back into the match - until Braithwaite's goal sparked a frantic finish.
Up until that point Millwall had been dominant, limiting Boro to just a single shot on target and a couple of set-piece opportunities.
The home side came out of the blocks quickly, and Ryan Shotton had to be alert to prevent O'Brien converting a cross after just six minutes.
But Middlesbrough failed to learn from that near miss, and when Gregory flicked a throw-in to his strike partner Morison, no one tracked his run on to the return ball. Gregory found himself in the box and was able to cross, picking out the on-rushing O'Brien who slammed home.
Chances kept coming, with Gregory keeping a dozy Boro backline on their toes, only to pick the wrong pass after getting in behind, while Jake Cooper also powered a header wide from a corner.
Millwall might have stretched their lead further, with Gregory, O'Brien and Jed Wallace running riot against a defence that badly missed Ben Gibson, who did not travel ahead of an expected move to Premier League side Burnley.
His replacement in the side, 20-year-old Dael Fry, played Gregory onside shortly after half-time, allowing the striker to cross for Morison, who could not quite get enough on the ball to turn it home from inside six yards.
O'Brien, Morison and Gregory all had further opportunities and Millwall looked comfortable until Braithwaite popped up to convert Marcus Tavernier's cross.
From then on it was just a question of whether the constant aerial bombardment would lead to an equaliser, and it did with the last kick of the game, as Friend latched onto a knock-down and bundled home.
Neil Harris: "For 88 minutes, I doubt we'll play as well as that again this season. That was as good a Millwall performance as you could hope to see, home or away.
"I'll stop short of saying it's men against boys for 88 minutes, but what we did and how we dominated Boro was phenomenal "If you don't get the third, fourth, fifth goal, which we could have had, then you leave yourself open to disappointment."
Tony Pulis: "We have to put things in perspective here. If you look at the team we had today compared to the team that ended last season, we're six players down. Ben Gibson, Adama Traore, Roberto Ayala, Patrick Bamford, Muhamed Besic - they're all top players. So that team today was a massive change.
"We know we have to bring players in. That group is not good enough to get us promoted. It's a smashing group but it's not good enough to get us promoted. We need to add to the group."