Middlesbrough All But Relegated
Middlesbrough All But Relegated
While many were watching Manchester United claim their 18th league title, a few others saw Middlesbrough's status in the Premier League all but over.
36 games into the league with 31 points, Aston Villa faced Middlesbrough at 'Boro's stadium, with disgruntled fan support and terrible home form, surprisingly, Middlesbrough started brightly against Aston Villa, 60 seconds inside the game Middlesbrough almost scored when Stewart Downing's cross was turned behind by Gareth Barry. A Julio Arca header followed by a Garry O'Neill shotgave 'Boro fans a flicker of hope to hang on to, this bright start was followed by a rare early goal from Middlesbrough when Tuncay hit a stunning bicycle-kick from a deflected Downing cross 14 minutes into the game.
Middlesbrough fans of course, had seen all of this before - pretty football, followed by a rare, but stunning goal then followed by a defensive calamity - the warning signs were there. Minutes before Tuncay scored, Gabriel Agbonlahor was one-on-one with Brad Jones but the speedy striker could only shoot at Jones's feet.The hosts pushed forward but with only a goal to their name, the attacking, adventurous football could easily be discarded by only one goal from Aston Villa - which would all but end Middlesbrough's race to stay in the Premier League.
Just like that, it happened so fast - Middlesbrough conceded a goal, finished a match with a draw, the fans were disappointed yet unsurprised by a team who haven't scored enough. In the second half - Aston Villa started playing like the team that were once in 4th place ahead of Arsenal, Villa had more possession of the ball and started to attack, the cracks in 'Boro's defence started to open and the clinical John Carrew scored.
Villa are everything Middlesbrough aren't; stubborn as a rock, defensively solid with attacking players who can do something - Middlesbrough's defence has fallen apart time after time this season, and when they surge forward, players like Alfonso Alves haven't put away the rare clear-cut-chances created. Knowing a win wouldn't be acceptable, Boro surged forward for the last quarter of the game, despite being open on the counter-attack, the match finished 1-1 - and effectively it ended any optimistic chance of Boro staying in the league in this year.
Gareth Southgate's team must win their next match by 4 goals to stay up - with huge cracks in the defence, a lack of explosive power up front and very little money to splash, Middlesbrough's manager Gareth Southgate hasn't been able to buy forwards who can finish - Alves and Aliadere haven't done much this year, so much as to leading Aliadere being converted to a right winger, neither has he been able to buy a goalkeeper like Mark Schwarzer - as solid as a rock yet as cheap as chips, the defending... has been terrible through out, with inexperienced defenders needing older, experienced players who know how to defend with huge pressure - new centre backs were needed at the start of the year, at the middle of the season (Why didn't Southgate buy one in January? Lack of cash one suspects) and will still be needed for next year.
It's a shame that Middlesbrough are going down, for a team that plays creative football with a touch of flair like an artist drawing a masterpiece with his handsome hand, they don't have a solid spine to allow the hand to operate efficiently.