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Middlesbrough v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship

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What were the positives and negatives from Sunderland’s draw with Middlesbrough?

Despite a challenging second half at the Riverside Stadium, the Lads escaped with a point after Nazariy Rusyn’s late equaliser. We asked our writers for their thoughts on the game

Photo by George Wood/Getty Images

Anthony Gair says...

Jack Clarke tears them apart again

It seems like all the talk of a move during the transfer window has been lifted off his shoulders and he’s starting to play with freedom.

His direct running style was back and it scared the life out of Middlesbrough’s defence.

Also, his vision to spot Nazariy Rusyn for the goal was brilliant and Rusyn was only free because Clarke had drawn them all across to stop him. A top display.

Only fools Rusyn!

If Nazariy Rusyn is the answer, the question is ‘who should play as Sunderland’s lone striker?’.

If he’s not running around the field trying to win the ball back, he’s trying to get into good positions to give us the best chance of scoring goals.

I think Michael Beale could do so much worse than to trust Rusyn for the rest of the season, as long as he stays fit.

A largely poor second half display

The performance from the start of the second half until the seventy minute mark was nothing short of disgraceful.

We invited Middlesbrough onto us, we weren’t intense in the challenge and we had nothing going forward. Every pass was going out of play and there was only one winner after the first twenty five minutes of the second half.

Thankfully, we finally brought on Rusyn for Mason Burstow and the rest is history.

Mason Burstow struggles again

I don’t usually like to talk about poor individual performances, but this lad looks nothing like a striker.

He’s slow, he can’t hold the ball up and he looks disinterested. Obviously after I type this, he’ll go back to Chelsea and score forty goals next season, but he truly doesn’t look like a footballer.

Rusyn did more in five minutes than Burstow did all game and it’s unfortunate, because he’s highly rated by Chelsea.

Middlesbrough v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Malc Dugdale says...

Nazariy Rusyn’s stock is rising

I was chuffed to see the Ukrainian bag a goal.

He scored against Preston to help seal a 2-0 win and he must’ve been gutted not to start after that, but on Sunday, he showed why he should.

Both of his goals were well taken, from his darting front post run and finish against Preston and a speculative but well-struck shot to beat Tom Glover at his near post yesterday.

His rivals for the shirt are way behind him in my view, and he’s surely made the role his own for the upcoming games.

An unlikely away point

We looked competitive in the first half but awful in the second, and our record against Middlesbrough on Teesside is poor.

To come away with a point was a good outcome, no matter what reasons people come up with to bang the ‘Beale Out’ drum, as they doubtless will.

I’m far from ‘Beale In’, as he hasn’t been around long enough to know the score yet, but the stick he’s been taking is frankly ridiculous.

With the pressure we built up in the last twenty minutes, we might’ve nicked all three points as Jack Clarke and Rusyn really turned the screw, but a draw was fair result for both teams.

Abdoullah Ba blows hot and cold

I really can’t work this lad out, but I have to assume he works in binary code.

He’s either a ‘one’ and doing pretty much everything right, as he did in the last game, or he’s a ‘zero’ and doing nothing right at all, and Sunday was definitely a ‘zero’ day.

I can’t fathom how the lad lasted as long as he did, and it disappointed me when he wasn’t replaced earlier.

It wasn’t just the sitter he missed, either.

Time and again, he was pulled way more central than he should’ve been, giving a team who love to play out from the back a very easy route to the left side of the halfway line and to look for the attacking passes.

Back to school for Ba, and hopefully while he gets converted over to hexadecimal, Roberts can get back into his groove and give us something on that side of the park to work with.

A dismal second half display

The performance after the break was utter dross, and I think if young Sam Greenwood hadn’t been taken off, we wouldn’t have got back into the game.

The dour approach to the second period was something I don’t to see again. We were incredibly lucky that we got back into it, but I really don’t get why we couldn’t be bothered until we were behind and the substitutes came on.

Where did the fire and battle from the first half go?

I’d also like someone to make a compilation of the runs that both Greenwood and Nazariy Rusyn made, as Mason Burstow did nothing like that all game.

We need to work out what Burstow is but let’s accept he isn’t a striker, and move on to others who at least look similar to one. ‎

Mark Wood says…

Rusyn saves the day

Well done to Nazariy Rusyn for a true ‘super sub’ performance.

He chased and harried when he came on, putting all his energy into the time he had on the pitch. He made the most of whatever came his way and was rewarded when his shot went in for the equaliser.

It was a lucky goal without a doubt. He hit it hard enough and it went right where he intended but most goalkeepers would’ve saved it. However, if you don’t hit the shots, you don’t get the rewards.

A good first half display

I thought we put in a good competitive performance in the first half.

I’m not going to join the chorus criticising Abdoullah Ba for the chance he should’ve put away because he’s young, he’ll learn and he just made a poor decision which he hopefully won’t repeat.

The kid has shown he has the character to have a bad day and bounce back, and Middlesbrough’s Finn Azaz also missed an open goal early on.

Aside from that, Trai Hume put in a bunch of good early crosses and my one criticism of the first half was that the only player getting into the box was Mason Burstow, with little or no support from anyone else.

Second half struggles

I’d love to know what was said in the dressing room at half time. Was it ‘more of the same, lads?’.

Good coaches will change things at half time in an even match to try and get the upper hand, and Michael Carrick did, because until Luke Ayling’s booking, we offered nothing at all and were heading for defeat.

Even our substitutions of Patrick Roberts for Abdoullah Ba and Nazariy Rusyn for Mason Burstow were like-for-like, with no change of formation and no extra men going forward in a game we were losing.

I’m not ‘Beale Out’.

He’s got a long contract and he’s going to be around for a good stretch, but Rusyn and a slice of luck got him out of jail, in my opinion.

Greenwood causes problems

Sky Sports gave the ‘man of the match’ award to Jack Clarke and although he was a threat throughout, my own choice would’ve been Sam Greenwood, who used his pace to stretch our defenders all afternoon.

It was bemusing to Middlesbrough set up in a way that we haven’t used for our own strikers all season, with our ex-academy player sat on the shoulder of our last defender for the whole time he was on the pitch.

The only Sunderland player that I saw trying to send Rusyn away was Dan Ballard, of all people.

Middlesbrough v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by George Wood/Getty Images

Lars Knutsen says...

Sunderland dig deep for a point

After finding ourselves 1-0 down, we were under the cosh for much of the second half but still had the self-belief to equalise through Nazariy Rusyn’s shot, which squeezed past Tom Glover’s desperate dive.

At times it seemed like an unlikely point, but it was really important not to lose.

We stayed in contention despite the game looking like it was slipping away at times, and we should give credit to Michael Beale for his substitutions.

Resilient defending

Middlesbrough were the home side, so their fans would’ve expected them to come forward and that’s what they did.

However, our defence remained generally solid with new signing Leo Hjelde looking skilful despite lacking sharpness, but he grew in authority as the game unfolded.

Luke O’Nien and Dan Ballard were their usual determined selves, with many important blocks to their credit.

Promise and frustration for Abdoullah Ba

He showed a lot of skill on the right but was guilty of a terrible miss just before half time, and he also picked up a really stupid booking for a gesture.

He and our other forward players didn’t stamp their authority on the game and if he’d buried his chance, we would’ve come away with all three points.

This all changed in the last fifteen minutes or so, after the Frenchman had been substituted.

A passive display after the break

We were too passive in the second half until the goal went in, having been very much in it during the first forty five minutes, and even Lee Cattermole thought we were poor.

When Marcus Forss netted with a skilful touch and shot on the hour mark, there wasn’t enough of an immediate reaction from the Lads until Rusyn found the net for the third time in a week.

The Ukrainian illustrated again that you have to shoot to score, and it was a good hit, too.

Middlesbrough v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images


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