Middlesbrough 1-1 Blackburn: Britt Assombalonga salvages point for 10-man Boro
Charlie Mulgrew put Blackburn in front after Mo Besic red card but Middlesbrough earn draw
Last Updated: 08/12/18 7:10pm
Ten-man Middlesbrough staged a stirring second-half comeback to claim a point from a 1-1 draw with Blackburn.
Rovers boss Tony Mowbray looked like he would enjoy a successful return to the Riverside when Charlie Mulgrew curled home a 22nd-minute free-kick, moments after Middlesbrough had Mo Besic dismissed for a professional foul.
But Rovers were unable to make their extra man count and Boro claimed a deserved leveller when substitute Britt Assombalonga curled home in the second half.
Middlesbrough went into the game looking to respond to the home defeat to Aston Villa, but their attempts to get their promotion push back on track suffered a major blow in the 20th minute.
Besic embarked on an unnecessary dribble towards his own area and panicked when Bradley Dack nicked the ball off him.
Besic clearly pulled Dack's shirt to prevent the midfielder breaking into the area, and while referee Simon Hooper initially appeared to have missed the incident, his assistant, Sian Massey-Ellis, instructed him to issue a red card.
It was the right decision, and Blackburn inflicted a double punishment as Mulgrew stepped up to take the resultant free-kick and duly curled a superb left-footed strike around the wall and into the bottom left-hand corner.
Unsurprisingly, Blackburn dominated after Besic's dismissal, and the visitors twice came close to extending their lead before the break.
Danny Graham must have thought he had scored as he met Harrison Reed's 37th-minute cross with a crisp first-time shot, but Daniel Ayala produced a superb sliding challenge to block the former Middlesbrough striker's effort.
Five minutes later Graham was free in the box again, only for Darren Randolph to save his fiercely-hit shot. The ball rebounded towards Corry Evans, but the midfielder could only stab an instinctive first-time strike wide.
Tony Pulis tried to change things at half-time, bringing on Assombalonga and George Saville, but Blackburn continued to dominate and came within inches of doubling their advantage seven minutes after the break.
Derrick Williams teed up an onrushing Dack in the area, and the Rovers midfielder crashed a first-time shot against the base of the left-hand post. Craig Conway drilled the rebound goalwards, but Randolph got down well to save.
Boro adopted a positive second-half approach despite their numerical disadvantage, and their boldness was almost rewarded just before the hour mark.
Saville's long ball sent Jordan Hugill galloping clear of the Blackburn defence, but the Boro striker took far too long to get his shot away and Mulgrew was able to prevent him from pulling the trigger with a perfectly-timed sliding tackle.
Four minutes later, however, the hosts were level. George Friend rolled the ball in to Hugill, he laid it off to Assombalonga with his back to goal, and the substitute opened up his body to curl home a superb finish from the corner of the box.
Tony Pulis: "The referee doesn't send him off - it's the fourth official and the linesman on our side. I'll say it now - Besic does pull his shirt.
"But I believe our goalkeeper was getting to the ball first before their lad. I think it's a yellow card, not a sending off. How they make that decision from that distance - and a decision that ultimately changed the game - is beyond me. I think you've got to be 110 per cent sure that you're stopping him from scoring a goal, or stopping a clear-cut chance."
Tony Mowbray: "It's a very frustrated dressing room. We shouldn't have dropped points, playing against 10 men and having scored from a free-kick.
"Ultimately we needed the second goal, and it didn't come. I think if there's one team in this league you don't want to play against with 10 men, it's probably Middlesbrough with how good they are behind the ball."