#Manchester City 0 Middlesbrough 2
As shocks go, this was maybe not as much of a giant-killing act as some might imagine, yet it was still a surprise that the high-fliers in England's second tier were able to defeat the current Premier League champions on their home patch. Sporting the best defensive record in the Championship, Middlesbrough built their victory around a solid clean sheet at the Etihad, ensuring that if they could nick one at the other end then that would be enough to take them through. As it happened they managed two, as the gloss was added to their win with a late second goal that clinched the tie. Admittedly, they rode their luck somewhat in the first-half as City piled on the pressure, but created several good chances themselves after the break and took two of them.
Early on, the lively Sergio Aguero fired a right-foot shot just wide of the visitor's goal, as Manuel Pellegrini's boys sought an early advantage. The manager had certainly shown his attacking intentions by selecting Jesus Navas, David Silva, Stevan Jovetic and Aguero in his starting line-up. The defensive resilience of the away side was severely tested during the first period, as James Milner fired in a hard low shot that was brilliantly pushed aside by goalkeeper Tomas Mejias to his right. The Spanish under-20 international was at it again to deny Silva later in the half. In a dominant display by the home side during the first forty-five minutes, they were extremely unfortunate to not be awarded a penalty when defender Daniel Ayala looked to handle in the area.
Riding the good fortune from the first-half, Middlesbrough looked brighter going forward after the break. Against the run of play (so far) they took a surprise lead on 53 minutes, when Patrick Bamford blocked an attempted clearance as he guessed right and the ball rebounded into the goal. The lead up to the goal was calamitous for City, as Fernando's poor header back allowed Albert Adomah in on goal. He collided with keeper Willy Caballero and in the ensuing panic, Fernando's desperate clearance hit Bamford and rebounded into the net. It was due reward for the persistence of the musically-talented Chelsea loanee.
With the away side getting on top as they sought to put the result beyond doubt, it was the City defence that was now being deeply examined. As the chances were racked up they held on gamely, blocking shots heroically and having keeper Willy Caballero to thank on several occasions in an attempt to stay in the tie. Yet they were also fortunate, as the away side wasted a host of chances including Adomah's miss after outpacing the defence and Lee Tomlin's shot against the post.
City came back into the match as an attacking force as the clock ticked down, Aguero firing wide from distance and substitute Frank Lampard seeing his deflected shot strike the post.
As they entered injury time, Boro broke for one last time and despite 21-year-old Bamford having been fouled they played on, allowing super-sub Spaniard Kike to settle the match once and for all. Bamford for one will have enjoyed the experience, his sweet music for once being on the pitch rather than on the piano, violin or saxophone that he can play equally well. His goal was his eleventh of the season as the club harbour genuine promotion aspirations on this display. #FootballPelligrini fended off accusations afterwards that a mid-week trip to Abu Dhabi might have been the reason for his side seemingly fading during the second period. They had only landed back on home soil around 8pm the night before, after a long seven-hour flight.