Sunderland exited the Emirates FA Cup in the third round following a 2-0 defeat to Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium.
Rudy Gestede opened the scoring after ten minutes and Martin Braithwaite doubled their advantage before the break, but there was no way back as Josh Maja struck the crossbar and Ty Browning forced an excellent save.
Recap all the action below…
ROBSON AND MAJA RETURN
Chris Coleman was without 11 first-team players – and Lewis Grabban following the end of his loan spell – at the Riverside Stadium, so there was clear a blend of youth and experience in the starting XI. Ethan Robson made his full debut and Josh Maja returned to lead the line, with Paddy McNair and Aiden McGeady, who were rated as doubts, not included. Jason Steele faced his former club as Robbin Ruiter dropped to the bench, with John O’Shea captaining the side as Billy Jones made his first start since a 1-0 defeat on Teesside in November.
Sunderland made a confident start to the game but Adama Traore was the star of the show early on as Boro opened the scoring. The former Barcelona winger fired an early warning sign when O’Shea poked his menacing cross behind, but within minutes he was tearing through the heart of the Black Cats’ midfield before picking out Gestede. The Frenchman applied the finish touch, rolling the ball under Steele and into the net. And within a minute of the restart the home side were piling forward once more, as Braithwaite’s effort was pushed away by Steele after fine play from Traore.
BORO IN COMMAND
Middlesbrough continued to surge forward but the Black Cats remained in the game as another vital interception stopped a testing cross from Traore. However, Coleman’s men went within a whisker of an equaliser on 25 minutes as Bryan Oviedo dashed to the byline before pulling the ball back into the six-yard box where Maja waited to pounce. Last-ditch defending denied the striker just as he looked to pull the trigger, though, and Boro responded with a volley of efforts as Steele saved from Jonny Howson before Braithwaite dragged a shot wide.
HOME SIDE DOUBLE UP
Tony Pulis’ side weren’t done there and before the interval they piled forward in search of a second – and they were rewarded. Downing mustered a couple of notable attempt before they struck, seeing an effort blocked following a blistering counter attack, engineered by George Friend, before his second thumped inches wide. But three minutes before the interval Boro found a way through, as Steele came and missed a corner and bodies dropped in the box, allowing Braithwaite to tap the ball into the empty net.
Sunderland came closest to a response just two minutes after the restart, as Maja beat his man at the near post before glancing a header agonisingly against the crossbar. The attempt shocked Boro back into life and it didn’t take them long to reassert their dominance, as Oviedo denied Traore at the back post before the winger cut inside and force Steele into another save. With 53 minutes played, Coleman made his first change as Joel Asoro replaced Callum McManaman, but it was Robson that continued to stand out as the midfielder impressed on his first senior start for the club.
Sunderland’s second-half performance was far better than their showing in the first, but they were left frustrated as Boro continued to shut up shop. After seeing Maja strike the woodwork, Coleman then watched on as Browning powered a header towards goal where Darron Randolph made a stunning point-blank save. And that proved to be that at the Riverside Stadium, as the Black Cats exited the cup and Boro marched into the fourth round.
Attendance: 26,399 (4,476)
Middlesbrough: Randolph, Friend, Ayala, Shotton, Gibson, Leadbitter, Braithwaite (Clayton 65), Howson, Downing, Traore (Johnson 81), Gestede.
Subs not used: Dimi, Assombalonga, Fletcher, Christie, Forshaw.
Sunderland: Steele, Jones, O’Shea, Browning, Love, Oviedo, Wilson, Robson (Embleton 81), Honeyman, McManaman (Asoro 53), Maja (Vaughan 74).
Substitutes: Ruiter, Galloway, Beadling, Gamble.