Middlesbrough 1-0 Sunderland
Despite a change in the dugout there was no self-inspired performance from Sunderland this afternoon at the Riverside Stadium, losing 1-0 to a Garry Monk-led Middlesbrough side that didn’t really have to work too hard for their win.
Marcus Tavernier’s fifth minute goal was all that seperated the two teams and Sunderland, now over a third of the way through the season, are bottom of the table.
The first real opportunity for either side came just minutes into the game. Didier Ndong’s long range effort was spilled by Darren Randolph, and with the goal begging the ball fell to Lewis Grabban - but his close-range shot was turned over and away for a corner.
Then, minutes later, reality struck.
Poor positioning from Marc Wilson and John O’Shea pulled Sunderland’s defence all over, and a cross into the area was converted with ease by youngster Marcus Tavernier to put Boro 1-0 up just six minutes into the game, nipping in ahead of Billy Jones.
Things went from bad to worse for the right back as the half wore on, picking up a booking before he was injured in the 25th minute following a clash with his own teammate, Darron Gibson.
Any attempt to move forward by Sunderland largely failed to trouble the Middlesbrough defence, with either one of our midfielders giving the ball away or Grabban failing to use the ball with a swarm of Boro players around him.
Then, just before the half-time break, Lee Cattermole picked up a ridiculous yellow card after making a needless foul from behind on a Boro player.
Sunderland enjoyed plenty of possession, but Boro’s centre half partnership kept us at arm’s length and as a result we went in at half time behind.
Half Time: Middlesbrough 1 (Tavernier, 5) Sunderland 0
Early in the half, Didier Ndong - who, arguably, had been Sunderland’s best player up until that point - went down awkwardly and despite trying to struggle on, he eventually had to come off to be replaced by George Honeyman.
Shortly after Middlesbrough created another chance, forcing Robbin Ruiter into an excellent save. It was a let-off for Sunderland but fine work from the Dutch stopper ensured that the game stayed at 1-0.
Marc Wilson endured a torrid afternoon and it almost went from bad to worse, this time as the Irishman dragged Martin Braithwaite down on the edge of the box to give away a free kick away that was millimetres from being a penalty. Former Sunderland loanee Stewart Downing hit the set-piece low, but Ruiter was again down quickly to make a smart save.
The most alarming aspect of Sunderland’s performance was the lack of energy and commitment off the ball, particularly in the second period.
Too many players were happy to stand off and watch the game pass them by. There was no urgency over any aspect of our game and moving forward we failed to find a final ball of any quality time and time again.
Full Time: Middlesbrough 1-0 Sunderland
Robbin Ruiter, 7/10: Can’t be blamed for the goal and made a couple of decent saves to spare our defender’s blushes. Should retain his spot.
Bryan Oviedo, 6/10: Our best defender but couldn’t influence the game going forward. Needs more help down our left hand side.
Marc Wilson, 3/10: Positional awareness cost us the game and is lucky not to be responsible for more.
John O’Shea, 3/10: The leader of an inept defence.
Billy Jones, 4/10: Lost to injury in the first half but loses a mark for being part of the defence that conceded such a poor first goal.
Darron Gibson, 2/10: Couldn’t start an attack and looked like he didn’t want to be there.
Lee Cattermole, 3/10: Apart from picking up a silly yellow card, I can’t remember anything Cattermole did.
Paddy McNair, 5/10: Quiet game that ended on 77 minutes, probably still just short of match fitness.
Didier Ndong, 6/10: The best of a bad bunch before he was subbed. Hopefully his injury is nothing serious because our midfield needs him.
Aiden McGeady, 4/10: Another passenger who failed to trouble the defence despite some flashes, but needs to help Ovideo defensively.
Lewis Grabban, 4/10: Dropped deep too often and saw our best chance saved.
(SUB) Adam Matthews, 5/10: Unspectacular. Got forward well but ultimately didn’t offer a great deal.
(SUB) George Honeyman, 5/10: One of the players who looked interested but his lack of quality cancelled any positives.
(SUB) Jonny Williams, 4/10: A player who should start for his ability to move the ball forward but didn’t do enough today despite the limited minutes.
Man of the Match: Robbin Ruiter.