Middlesbrough 0-2 Birmingham City: Match report
Middlesbrough’s winning run was ended as they were beaten 2-0 at the Riverside by a physical Birmingham City side.
Two goals in in four minutes early in the second half turned a game which Boro seemed to have control of in the visitor’s favour and the result was never in any doubt after that point.
Neil Warnock named an unchanged side from the team that beat Cardiff so convincingly last week with Uche Ikpeazu continuing to partner Andraz Sporar up front and Marcus Tavernier and Onel Hernandez taking the wing-back roles.
The game started with Birmingham dominating possession without hurting Boro, the home side appearing content to let the Blues have the ball in their own half.
Boro’s first threat came when a strong challenge from Tavernier near his own corner flag set up a quick break and his excellent crossfield pass found Hernandez galloping up the left.
The Cuban attempted a strike but saw his shot blocked. Hernandez was in action again minutes later when a delightful floated pass from Martin Payero saw Hernandez break into the box but Ikpeazu was only able to direct the resultant cross wide with his head.
Ikpeazu’s physical presence was causing Birmingham’s backline all sorts of problems and after a series of fouls on him,
Dion Sanderson received the first booking of the afternoon. Sanderson was perhaps lucky just minutes later when he fouled Ikpeazu again but with the crowd baying for a second booking the referee settled on calling the two captains, Jonny Howson and Troy Deeney, for a conversation to calm the situation down.
Birmingham, and especially Sanderson, will have been relieved to see the latest foul resulted in Ikpeazu being unable to continue, the forward being replaced by Duncan Watmore.
Hernandez was next to be on the end of the physicality of Birmingham, being dragged to the ground when he turned his man on the byline.
From the resulting free kick Payero attempted to beat the keeper Matija Sarkic from an acute angle with Sarkic just managing to scramble the ball away from under the bar.
Howson’s shot from the edge of the box, after being teed up by Hernandez, was the last chance of the half, his strike appearing to cause Sarkic more problems than it warranted but the game remained goalless at half time.
Birmingham’s attacking threat was being provided from long throws and high balls into the box and this is where the breakthrough came from eight minutes into the second period.
A free kick from near the halfway line was floated into the box with Boro keeper, Joe Lumley, running into no-mans land in an attempt to claim the ball and getting nowhere near, Birmingham defender Marc Roberts having the simple task of heading home from 12 yards.
Three minutes later the lead was doubled when a hopeful punt evaded Sol Bamba and Paddy McNair. Scott Hogan got in front of the two Boro defenders and held them off before beating Lumley with ease.
Boro showed no real appetite to fight their way back into the game, Payero’s long free-kick that was missed by Sarkic with no one there to put the loose ball in the closest they came to threatening a comeback.
Birmingham were content to sit on their lead and after a non-eventful half hour the game, and Boro’s recent good run, was brought to an end with minimal resistance.
Middlesbrough will be concerned with the lack of fight shown after the two quick-fire goals and will need to show far more heart on Tuesday night when they visit Luton Town.
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