Marten de Roon's goal lifts Middlesbrough to first win in 2017
Middlesbrough achieved their first win of 2017 in a scrappy 1-0 victory over Sunderland at the Riverside Stadium, and have taken all six points from their northeastern rivals this season.
Marten de Roon led the charge and popped up to poke home a key goal for the home team. There was a positive feeling to Boro's play for the first half, before Sunderland readied themselves, and the Teessiders may feel unlucky not to have gone in at half-time with a much more comfortable scoreline after a strong effort from Stewart Downing. Boro's defensive steel was back in force and the clean sheet will do wonders for confidence following last weekend's 4-0 drubbing at Bournemouth.
While Boro may have finally won a game after four long months without doing so, it was only really down to the shoddiness of Sunderland's defence and that the visitors are simply a slightly worse side than the Teessiders when push comes to shove.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- Once again, the manager had little sway on the outcome of the game beyond the starting lineup. As Boro led for most of the match, when it reached the hour mark Steve Agnew's selections were merely replacing tiring players with fresh legs. The dearth of quality on the bench rang loudly and clearly as Boro scrapped to hang on for the win, but still, victory was claimed.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Brad Guzan, 6 -- Kept the dangerous Jermain Defoe at bay and recorded a clean sheet for the first time in four matches.
DF George Friend, 6 -- Threw all of his energy into the game in a terrier-like performance that reflects his commitment to the club and the cause.
DF Daniel Ayala, 6 -- Some last-ditch defending from the Spaniard kept Boro in the mix and helped Ben Gibson manage the twin threat of Defoe and Victor Anichebe.
DF Ben Gibson, 6 -- A lion-hearted performance from the hometown hero, Gibson looked comfortable with his defensive partner Ayala by his side, and equally when Calum Chambers switched in during the second half.
DF Calum Chambers, 6 -- Chambers looked to enjoy his outing on at right-back in the first half and seems to almost be back to his full potential after his recent return from injury.
MF Adam Clayton, 7 -- Coolly put a peach of a ball through to a charging De Roon for the only goal, Clayton is one player that Boro must hang onto next season, whatever happens.
MF Marten de Roon, 6 -- Making his mark at the perfect moment, De Roon did very well to control Clayton's chip with his chest and stab the ball home past an ailing Jordan Pickford in the Sunderland nets.
MF Cristhian Stuani, 6 -- The stats don't lie and Boro are a more effective team when Stuani is on the pitch -- a solid showing from the Uruguayan.
MF Stewart Downing, 6 -- Downing had one of his better performances on Wednesday, enjoying his forays forward as Sunderland quickly lost confidence after the goal.
MF Adam Forshaw, 4 -- Forshaw could have made a real difference in this attacking position but his lack of pace let him down.
FW Alvaro Negredo, 6 -- Negredo worked hard as always but had a relatively quiet evening in terms of creating chances and efforts on goal.
DF Fabio, 5 -- Came on early in the second half to replace Ayala.
FW Rudy Gestede, NR -- Conducted himself well and did what was asked of him when he came on after 76 minutes to run down the Sunderland defence.
Catherine Wilson ESPN FC's Middlesbrough blogger. You can follow her on Twitter: @Basslady