It's six years since Sunderland won a match in August, and at the end of last season this fixture may well have been the one thought to end that statistic. However all that has gone on at the Club since now makes the outcome far more interesting for the neutral and far less certain for the home fans.
With the departure of Kaboul and the reported injury to Kone, a debut was handed to Papy Djilobodji, David Moyes' first signing from Chelsea, to partner John O'Shea in a reconstructed back four. Donald Love retained his position at right back and Paddy McNair made his home debut in midfield. There were also home debuts for Adnan Januzaj and Lynden Gooch who impressed last week at Manchester City. Fabio Borini was left out with a toe injury. New signing Steven Pienaar started on the bench.
There were three changes to the Middlesbrough team that drew with Stoke last week with Marten de Roon out with a hamstring injury and Adam Forshaw coming into central midfield. Goalkeeper Valdes was also injured with ex Aston Villa Brad Guzan taking his place, and Albert Adomah making way for Cristhian Stuani There were places for the influential Gaston Ramirez and ex Manchester City striker Negredo who scored against Stoke. Ex Sunderland loanee Stewart Downing was also in the starting eleven.
The game started brightly for the home team with Januzaj roaming across the front three and having some good interplay with both Watmore and Gooch and culminating in a great cross from the left by Gooch, which just evaded Januzaj in front of goal.
On 12 minutes, Middlesbrough mounted their first attack with Uruguyan international Stuani pressing forward into the Sunderland half. A clever overlapping run from Nsue, the full back, momentarily pulled van Aanholt out of position, leaving space for Stuani to strike a stunning shot from 25 yards into the top corner of Mannones' net. One nil to the visitors.
The goal took the sting out of Sunderland temporarily, but the pressure began to build again and on 28 minutes Defoe had the ball in the net only to be judged offside. Sunderland were looking to hit Middlesbrough fast on the counter-attack, but each time, a poor quality pass in the final third saw the moves break down.
Then, on 35 minutes John O'Shea had to leave the pitch injured, meaning Steven Pienaar came on for his Sunderland debut, and Rodwell dropped back to centre back to partner Djilobodji.
Sunderland heads dropped slightly at this stage allowing the visitors to keep possession and pass the ball around well. Middlesborough looked to be finishing the half more strongly, and then, with a minute to go before half time, incisive passing from Forshaw through to Negredo left him one on one with Mannone, but he unselfishly squared it to Stuani who buried it for his and Middlesbroughs second.
David Moyes made some changes at half time which saw Gooch drop into midfield to partner Pienaar and Watmore move up front alongside Defoe. Paddy McNair made way for Jeremain Lens, who immediately injected pace and power into the Sunderland attack.
Lynden Gooch, who was everywhere on the pitch, lifted the crowd on 55 minutes with a surging run, and it paved the way for a sustained period of Sunderland pressure. Pienaar was industrious and tidy in midfield driving most of the Sunderland attacks forward..
Lens was influential up front, setting up Januzaj on sixty minutes who couldn't finish, but from the rebound Brad Guzan produced a brilliant instinctive save to deny van Aanholt. A moment later Lens went down in the penalty area but Brannigan was judged to have got the ball.
This was Sunderland's best period of the game and another great counter-attack from Watmore again lifted the crowd who really got behind the team. A series of corners let to a succession of chances for Lens, Januzaj and Defoe who's twist and turn on 65 minutes was blocked by Gibson en route to goal. Middlesbrough, who had the best defensive record in the Championship last season were soaking up everything that came at them, but it seemed Sunderland must score if they could keep the pressure up.
And, on 70 mins a great strike from Watmore, again on the counter, could only be parried by Guzan and van Aanholt followed up smartly to slot home. Defensively, Boro were starting to struggle, but Sunderland were unable to capitalise and find a way back into the game. The visitors were able to slow the game down and take the sting out of Sunderland's attacks.
In an already young Sunderland team, Joel Asoro became the Club's youngest ever Premier League player when he came on for Duncan Watmore on 80 minutes, but Middlesbrough had recovered their composure by then and saw the game out.
There were positives to take from the game for The Black Cat's not the least of which was the performance of the youngsters and the debut of Djilobodji who looked tidy and Pienaar who brought composure and invention to the midfield. However Sunderland were out-done by a wonder goal and a period of Middlesbrough dominance in the first half, when our makeshift defence couldn't cope with the visitors slick passing.
Sunderland: (4-2-3-1): Mannone, Love, O'Shea (Pienaar 36), Djilobodji, van Aanholt, Rodwell, McNair (Lens 45), Gooch, Watmore (Asoro 80'), Januzaj, Defoe.
Subs: Pickford, Khazri, Lens, Asoro, T. Robson, J Robson, Pienaar.
Goals: van Aanholt (70')
Middlesbrough: (4-2-3-1) Guzan, Nsue (Ayala 80'), Friend, Barragan, Gibson, Clayton, Forshaw, Downing, Stuani, Ramirez (Adomah 58'), Negredo (Nugent 90').
Subs: Konstantopoulos, Ayala, De Sart, Baptiste, Adomah, Nugent, Fischer,
Goals: Stuani (12') (44')
Referee: Martin Atkinson