Norwich City 0 Middlesbrough 1 (Half-time 0-1)
Middlesbrough moved back to the top of the Championship table after a hard-fought victory at Carrow Road last night, scoring early on via an Alex Tettey own goal and then challenging their opponents Norwich City to break their stubborn defensive rearguard down. The home side ultimately failed to do so and with the defeat will now need to rely on other sides to stumble, if they are to claim one of the two automatic promotion places up for grabs this season.
That may prove to be wishful thinking, with both Bournemouth and Watford looking to re-inforce their own promotion credentials on Saturday, with victories for both elevating them into the top two positions should they be successful.
Middlesbrough flew out of the traps in the first ten minutes, putting early pressure on the Norwich defence and forcing a series of corners. Their quick start was rewarded in the eighth minute, when a Boro corner from Grant Leadibitter was flicked past goalkeeper John Ruddy and into his own net by Tettey, with Albert Adomah just failing to get the final touch at the back post before the ball had crossed the line.
Norwich looked visibly rattled in the early stages and could have easily conceded again in that period, but gradually began to get a foothold in the match. Their recovery looked to be complete when the returning from suspension Bradley Johnson headed back across goal from a hanging cross, only for teammate Jonny Howson to somehow head wide of goal from inside the six yard box, with supporters already acclaiming the equaliser.
Their profligacy was almost penalized further by another goal for the away side when an errant header at the back allowed Adomah through on goal, only for the Middlesbrough player to volley wastefully over the bar.
The second-half continued the pattern of Middlesbrough allowing the hosts to retain the majority of the possession, without ever really threatening their goal. The visitors pride themselves on their defensive capabilities and it was easy to see why they have the tightest defensive record in the league. Norwich quite simply could not break them down and relied instead on half-chances, although they were few and far between.
Boro's main moment of concern in the second period came from an attempted Cameron Jerome cross ten minutes from time, the ball seeming to strike the otherwise impressive George Friend's raised arm in the area, but the officials waved the strong penalty appeal by the East Anglian side away.
The away side probably had the best chance of the second-half, when the previously limping (from a bad fall in the first-half) Patrick Bamford continued to cause problems for the home side, showing clever movement to get in behind the Norwich defence only to fire his shot wide of goal.
It mattered not as Middlesbrough held on for a famous victory.
City's staff, especially Alex Neil were constantly infuriated by the apparent time-wasting tactics of the opposition. The referee halted the game on several occasions when players went down with alleged injuries, despite no indication of a head injury being involved, the general explanation for a need to stop the play.
Aitor Karanka and his side were rightfully ecstatic at the final whistle with the outcome, a win that moved Middlesbrough a point clear of Bournemouth at the top, having played one more game than the Cherries. #Football