Marten de Roon has warned Middlesbrough they will have to learn to play for 90 minutes if they want to achieve their dreams.
Boro booked their place in the fourth round of the FA Cup with a 3-0 victory over Sky Bet Championship side Sheffield Wednesday on Sunday, although much of the game’s decisive action took place inside an explosive nine-minute second-half period after a dreadful start.
Head coach Aitor Karanka revealed after the final whistle that he had blasted his players at half-time, and that appeared to do the trick as skipper Grant Leadbitter fired them into the lead within 13 minutes of the restart.
However, midfielder De Roon admits he and his team-mates have to raise their standards once again as they hope for an extended run in the cup and a successful retention of their Premier League status.
He told Boro Player: “I don’t know if there was some pressure, but maybe there was. After the goal, everybody felt more comfortable. It looked like everybody tried a little bit harder, knew he had to do a little more.
“I’m happy that we can show every time we can play very well. Now we have to start to do it from the beginning until the end instead of only 45 or 60 minutes.”
Karanka was not the only man to raise his voice during the break with De Roon revealing a few home truths were aired as Boro looked to shake off their first-half lethargy.
He said: “We played a bad first half. From the first minutes, you have to show that you are the Premier League team, you are the better team and we didn’t.
“We let them have the ball and they were better in the tackles. They showed that they wanted it more than we did.
“I wasn’t happy, wasn’t happy at all at how we played, so it was logical at half-time that the gaffer said something about it and we said something to each other because it wasn’t satisfying at all.
“You tell each other you have to step up because the first half wasn’t good at all and the second half, we did. We scored a good goal through Grant and then directly after, somebody was sent off.
“But after that, you saw we have a really good team spirit and showed that even with 10 men, we can be the better side.”
Leadbitter’s precise free-kick got the ball rolling, although it might have been stopped almost immediately by Daniel Ayala’s red card for a body-check on striker Fernando Forestieri.
De Roon said: “I have seen a few fouls in the Premier League here in England and I think it’s a harsh red card. Maybe it was more, but my first thought was a yellow.”
However, the tie was effectively over when striker Alvaro Negredo blocked goalkeeper Joe Wildsmith’s attempted 67th-minute clearance into the net and De Roon, who earlier had a goal ruled out for offside, thumped home a third – his third of the season – in injury time.
Asked if he has set himself a target for the campaign, the 25-year-old Dutchman said with a smile: “No – I was already happy I had scored one.”