Middlesbrough 1-0 Sunderland
Attendance: 30, 742
Sunderland fell to a disappointing 1-0 defeat at the Riverside Stadium on Wednesday evening.
A fast start lifted the 3,000-strong red and white army, but with just nine minutes on the clock Middlesbrough waltzed into the lead as Martin de Roon finished with aplomb.
With confidence soaring, Boro piled on the pressure and attempted to kill the game during the opening 45 minutes, but Sunderland held firm and rallied following the restart.
Fabio Borini and Adnan Januzaj were introduced as the Black Cats fought for a route back into the game, but they couldn’t find one as Boro moved six points clear with their first win in five months.
David Moyes selected an unchanged side for the game as Wahbi Khazri retained his place and Billy Jones overcame a head injury to take on the Teessiders.
But the Black Cats were once again without Bryan Oviedo through injury and Seb Larsson who served the second game of a three-match ban.
Both sides came together ahead of kick-off to remember the career and life of Ugo Ehiogu who sadly passed away last week, with former team-mates Robbie Stockdale and Lee Cattermole leading a rousing applause.
Sunderland made a strong start to the game with Defoe and Khazri leading the charge as the Black Cats forced a succession of corners, but Boro rose to the challenge and defended well.
Moments after Defoe’s superbly struck volley forced Brad Guzan into action, a clipped ball over the top baffled the Sunderland defence and de Roon beat Jordan Pickford to the punch to break the deadlock.
The opener came as a bitter blow to the Black Cats who found themselves behind following a bright start, and they failed to regroup as Boro threatened to extend their advantage.
With 19 minutes on the clock, further clumsy defending opened the door for Stewart Downing who raced through on goal, but Pickford produced a fantastic save to keep his side in the game.
And the stopper came to the rescue again minutes later, with the 22-year-old racing out to make two vital clearances as poor play from the back four put him under unnecessary pressure.
Sunderland dusted themselves down at the break and showed more intent during the opening exchanges of the second period, but Boro were resolute.
Fabio Borini entered the fray with 25 minutes remaining looking to repeat his West Ham United heroics, but the Italian’s influence on the game was minimal as the home side continued to hold firm.
And Adnan Januzaj was similarly thwarted by the tireless home side following his introduction, as Sunderland remain rooted to the bottom of the Premier League table.
Middlesbrough: Guzan, Chambers, Ayala (Fabio 54), Gibson, Friend, Clayton, De Roon, Forshaw, Downing, Stuani, Negredo (Gestede 75).
Subs not used: Dimi, Bernardo, Fischer, Traore, Bamford.
Sunderland: Pickford, Jones, O’Shea, Denayer, Manquillo, Cattermole (Rodwell 84), Gibson (Borini 64), Ndong, Khazri, Anichebe, Defoe.
Subs: Mannone, Pienaar, Kone, Januzaj, Lescott.