Middlesbrough 2 Birmingham City 0: Two-goal Assombalonga thrilled to inspire vital victory

Britt Assombalonga
Britt Assombalonga
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Matchwinner Britt Assombalonga was thrilled to inspire Middlesbrough’s important 2-0 Championship win over Birmingham City last night.

Boro rallied from Sunday’s loss at Leeds to beat the Blues to move into the play-off places, in sixth.

Summer signing Assombalonga bagged a first-half brace, taking his season’s tally to 11 for Garry Monk’s men.

“It was a very good win,” the striker told mfc.co.uk. “We needed that after the Leeds defeat.

“I think we really dominated and showed our qualities – second half we maybe could’ve done a bit better.

“But, at the end of the day, we won 2-0 so on to the next one (Derby at home on Saturday).”

Victory was Boro’s fourth in five games and Assombalonga added: “The manager always says never lose back-to-back games so we have to keep that up.

“Especially this season, you can see how hard the Championship is. If we just keep doing that then everything will fall into place.”

Boro needed just 10 minutes to break the deadlock.

Stewart Downing was afforded too much space as he cut in from the right and, when he let fly, Tomasz Kuszczak could only fumble the ball into the air. Assombalonga reacted quickest, stooping to head home from six yards.

Martin Braithwaite pulled the strings, in behind Assombalonga, but Birmingham twice went close either side of the half-hour, with Jonathan Grounds denied by a fine Dani Ayala block and keeper Darren Randolph’s excellent reflexes keeping out Che Adams’ strike.

An equaliser might have made things interesting, but Boro doubled their lead on 41 minutes.

Fabio Da Silva, recalled at left-back in place of George Friend, lofted a superb ball over the top of the defence to release Assombalonga into the area. He steadied himself close to the penalty spot and produced a clinical finish past Kuszczak.

In the second half, Assombalonga headed Cyrus Christie’s cross straight at Kuszczak after peeling off to the back post, before Fabio cut in to drill a crisp effort against the underside of the bar. Downing also whistled a decent second-half effort narrowly wide.

Boss Monk enjoyed the response to the Leeds setback, saying: “Overall, it was the response we were looking for.

“There was lots of good play in our game, and there were lots of good chances as well. You know there will be a response and they will have a period where they throw caution to the wind.

“They did that at the start of the second half, but I thought once we got to grips with that and came through it again, we created more opportunities.”

Middlesbrough: Randolph, Christie, Ayala, Gibson, Da Silva, Howson, Leadbitter (Forshaw 65), Downing (Traore 87), Braithwaite (Bamford 71), Johnson, Assombalonga. Subs not used: Konstantopoulos, Friend, Fletcher, Fry. Booked: Howson. Goals: Assombalonga 10, 41.

Birmingham: Kuszczak, Nsue, Roberts, Dean, Grounds, Davis (Maghoma 46), Kieftenbeld, Jota, N’Doye, Gallagher (Jutkiewicz 71), Adams (Cotterill 46). Subs not used: Stockdale, Boga, Dacres-Cogley, Morrison. Booked: Maghoma.

Att: 22, 848. Ref: Darren England (S Yorkshire).