MILLWALL conceded two goals in the last three minutes as Middlesbrough came back to draw at The Den.
Aiden O’Brien put Millwall ahead in the 12th minute and Lee Gregory doubled the lead when he took advantage of a poor back-pass from Aden Flint to beat Darren Randolph to the ball and finish to an empty net eight minutes before the break.
Boro were poor in the first half and didn’t threaten Jordan Archer, who watched Martin Braithwaite’s hopeful effort drift well wide.
The Lions had chances to add a third in the second half, but were then left hanging on when Braithwaite pulled a goal back in the 88th minute.
Boro piled on the pressure, and in the last minute of injury-time George Friend fired in from close range.
Millwall pick up where they left off – before blowing it
It was as if the game against Aston Villa – when they won so impressively on the final day of the season – was only last week and Millwall were riding the wave of a top performance into this.
From the start they were closing down, getting stuck in and then they had the quality through O’Brien to take the first proper chance that they created.
Steve Morison mentioned in pre-season they might have a head-start on the other teams because they are so used to how they play with each other and as a collective.
Morison and Gregory immediately put a Boro defence shorn of Ben Gibson – after Boro agreed a £12million fee for his sale yesterday – under pressure, with George Saville prompting from midfield.
Gregory set up the opener, almost telepathically aware O’Brien would be making a run off his shoulder off the left wing. O’Brien thumped his effort past Randolph for his first goal since he got injured against Leeds in January and missed the next two months.
Millwall had no new signings in their side but Boro had £7million Flint from Bristol City and he made an opening-day howler when he left a pass towards Randolph short. Gregory was on it in a flash, bravely challenging the goalkeeper before the ball popped loose and the striker tapped home.
You couldn't see Millwall not winning at that stage.
Early window closure a farce – as Boro suffer
If football chiefs, and clubs, wanted to close the summer transfer window earlier to limit disruption at the start of the season then why didn’t they come to an agreement to do it properly?
Besides the fact that loans can still be completed until August 31, Boro went into this week surely intending to start Gibson alongside Flint, only for Burnley to come in with that bid.
There are doubts also over the future of Adama Traore, with Wolves intent on signing him.
Imagine Millwall in the same situation with Jake Cooper and Jed Wallace this week? They wouldn’t have been the same team.
Not that Millwall fans cared a jot as they enjoyed their team making Boro look average.
Morison was inches away from turning in Gregory’s cross early in the second half, and there was about the same distance between O’Brien’s head and Wallace’s delivery.
Millwall were in rampant form in attack and at the other end when Boro threatened from a free-kick from the left, Cooper and Saville threw themselves in front of Britt Assombalonga as the striker appeared to be about to pull a goal back.
It was difficult to see a way back for Boro, but they threw everyone forward to cause chaos in their opponents’ box and somehow steal a point.
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Millwall’s three summer signings were on the bench. Boro had made all their changes by the 73rd minute and it was only in the game’s final quarter they started putting the hosts under pressure.
Archer was worried enough to shift quickly across his goal as Ryan Shotton’s header looked like it might creep inside the far post.
The goalkeeper then rapidly came off his line to nick the ball away from the feet of Assombalonga.
Braithwaite got one back late on and Boro laid siege to their opponents' goal.
Five minutes of added-time went up on the fourth official’s board and – surely to Millwall’s frustration – that clock had clicked into the 97th minute when Boro sent two free-kicks into the box. From the second, the home side couldn't clear and Friend pounced.
It was a cruel end to what seemed like would be the perfect day.
Image: Millwall FC