MIDDLESBROUGH claimed local bragging rights and prolonged their inevitable relegation with a 1-0 victory over Sunderland on Wednesday.
In a mediocre clash that had little drama or class, it Marten de Roon’s early strike that proved the difference between two sides destined for the drop.
The Dutchman’s goal came from Boro‘s first attack of the night after they were penned in by the visitors in the opening stages.
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But it took only one pass to pierce the Sunderland defence as Ben Gibson lofted a long punt forward from inside his own half.
That carved David Moyes’ men apart, and de Roon raced forward into the area and took a touch before stabbing the ball through the legs of goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
That well and truly knocked the stuffing out of the Black Cats, and Stewart Downing should have doubled Boro’s advantage shortly afterwards.
The winger again raced clear from 30 yards out after the backline was split again, but this time Pickford was able to deny him with his legs.
The home keeper Brad Guzan was then called into action before the break as he showed strong wrists to stop a fierce strike from Didier Ndong.
The American shotstopper was called into action again moments after the restart as he pushed away Wahbi Khazri’s free-kick.
But that was the closest anyone came to adding to the scoring as Boro held on to keep their faint hopes of survival alive.
FACTS, STATS, GOALS & LOLS
- This was the first league meeting between these two sides since January 2009 – a 1-1 draw.
- Steve Agnew made Antonio Barragan the scapegoat for Boro’s 4-0 defeat at Bournemouth on Saturday. He was the only unforced change from that side, with Gaston Ramirez the other missing through suspension.
- David Moyes named an unchanged side from the team that drew 2-2 with West Ham ten days ago.
Ref Mike Dean gets taken out by Sunderland’s Ndong and Middlesbrough’s Clayton
- The Black Cats boss has never recovered from when he declared his side would be in a relegation fight after losing at home to Boro in just the second match of the season.
- There was a poignant round of applause before kick-off in memory of Ugo Ehiogu, the former Boro centre-half who tragically died last week. They also clapped when the clock turned to 44 minutes – the age Ehiogu was when he passed away.
- Marten de Roon opened the scoring for Middlesbrough with his fifth goal of the season and his second in four games.
- Sunderland’s away fans sang “We want Moyesy out” after just 21 minutes – the second straight game they have turned on their boss.
- Those same supporters have certainly not lost their sense of humour. They sang “You’re going down with the Sunderland” to Boro fans, who applauded in return.
- This was Agnew’s first win in his seventh match as Boro boss – and the club’s first victory in 2017.
- The Black Cats have now won just one of their last 16 games.
Sun Apr 30 – Man City (H) – PL
Mon May 8 – Chelsea (A) – PL
Sat May 13 – Southampton (H) – PL
Sun May 21 – Liverpool (A) – PL
Sat Apr 29 – Bournemouth (H) – PL
Sat May 6 – Hull (A) – PL
Sat May 13 – Swansea (H) – PL
Tue May 16 – Arsenal (A) – PL
Sun May 21 – Chelsea (H) – PL
DREAM TEAM RATINGS
Middlesbrough: Guzan 7, Chambers 7, Ayala 6 (Fabio 54, 6), Gibson 7, Friend 7, de Roon 7, Clayton 7, Forshaw 6, Stuani 6, Negredo 6 (Gestede 76, 6), Downing 6
Subs not used: Konstantopoulos, Bernardo, Fischer, Bamford, Traore
Sunderland: Pickford 6, Jones 6, O’Shea 6, Denayer 6, Manquillo 7, Ndong 7, Cattermole 7 (Rodwell 84, 6), Gibson 6 (Borini 65, 6), Khazri 6 (Januzaj 77, 6), Defoe 6, Anichebe 7
Subs not used: Mannone, Lescott, Pienaar, Kone
DREAM TEAM STAR MAN: Adam Clayton
WHAT THEY SAID
Middlesbrough caretaker manager Steve Agnew: “I think all we do now is we remain focused for the game on Sunday against Manchester City. We’ll certainly gain some confidence and believe going into games.
“The Premier League, the reason we’re there is to play against the big teams. We will enjoy competing against the best because that’s why we’re in there.”
Sunderland boss David Moyes: “While there’s a chance, we’ll keep going, while there’s games to win. Good performances lead to results, that’s the way it goes.
“I think we’ve had a couple of pretty good performances in the last few games. We know our position, we’re not daft, we know exactly where we are. We have to try and pick up every win.
“I’m experienced enough. I’ve never been in this position before so it’s new to me as well. It’s something I’m not enjoying. I’d like to say I win more often than not. I can’t say its something I enjoy”