Middlesbrough 1-0 Sunderland: Atrocious first half leaves Black Cats on the brink as away support turns on Moyes

De Roon scored the winner early on for Boro
De Roon scored the winner early on for Boro
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A first half from Sunderland, and a second from Middlesbrough, that illustrated why these two sides will play their football in the Championship next season.

A dreadful game, a dearth of quality, two sides playing with fear and tension.

Nevertheless, Middlesbrough were left with a faint glimmer of hope, Sunderland with none.

It ended in the away end singing for the end of David Moyes' tenure once again, and chants of 'Are you watching Ellis Short?' On the final whistle, 'you're not fit to wear the shirt'.

The Black Cats had looked like staging a fightback early in the second half, but it faded. Middlesbrough had little, Sunderland nothing at all.

For the away support, so loyal and patient this season, to turn, is another significant moment in a season that is pushing fans to the limit.

Boro had to begin with looked every part the side so comprehensively humbled by Bournemouth just days previous.

George Friend looked nervous at left-back, Sunderland finding joy as Khazri, Ndong and Jones all roamed towards the byline. There was a flurry of early corners, Darron Gibson firing wide from distance and Jermain Defoe making Guzan look uncertain with a first time volley at the back post.

The goal that followed was too easy, the response desperate.

Adam Clayton picked up the ball on the half way line, under no pressure and able to pick out his pass. It was a fine ball, but De Roon had far too much space between Jones and O'Shea as he coasted through one on one. Pickford rushed out but could not prevent the Dutchman sliding home.

The Boro side had looked severely short on pace when the teams were announced, so the way they poured over the Black Cats on the counter was damning. Pickford made an outstanding save with his left leg as Downing ran through unopposed, Calum Chambers firing wide from distance.

Sunderland, Didier Ndong aside, were offering little to no resistance, summed up just before the break when Ben Gibson of all players was allowed to waltz towards goal, eventually brought down by Darron Gibson.

There had been a chant of 'we want Moyesy out' in the Sunderland end after Chambers' effort, with little sign of a comeback on the field.

The visitors did manage to weather the storm towards the end of the half, and Ndong drew a flying stop from Guzan as his left-footed effort arrowed towards the top corner. Billy Jones nodded over as Anichebe crossed from the follow up.

There was a response early in the second half, Khazri forcing Guzan into action from a free-kick on the edge of area.

The Tunisian had started the game brightly, but had made a lot of errors in possession as Sunderland lost their shape. He was growing into the contest now, a fine first time cross perfectly falling for Victor Anichebe. It took a superb intervention from Ben Gibson to prevent the scores being levelled.

Boro were nervous, hesitant on the ball and too often going aimlessly long. Their panic looked to be heightened when Fabio replaced the injured Daniel Ayala. The right-back struggled to get to grips with Anichebe on the left, a physical mismatch that offered the Black Cats hope.

The Nigerian was bundled over in the box as he backed into Guzan, but referee Mike Dean was quick to decide against a penalty.

In truth, Guzan was not being tested enough, much of Sunderland's efforts way off target.

Fabio Borini and Adnan Januzaj came on as the Black Cats searched for a goal, but the quality to force a positive result from the game was never there. A story told too many times this season.

Little quality, little direction.

90 minutes endured, never enjoyed.