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Middlesbrough 2-0 Cardiff City: Boro keep play-off hopes alive

Riley McGree's deflected effort doubled the hosts' lead on 53 minutes
Cardiff were unbeaten in three away league games against Middlesbrough since losing three in a row between 2013 and 2016

Middlesbrough kept their play-off hopes alive with a vital 2-0 win over Cardiff City at the Riverside Stadium.

Chris Wilder’s side are now seventh, trailing Sheffield United by two points with two games left in the battle for the last Championship play-off berth.

Boro went ahead on 28 minutes with their first effort of note, as Marcus Tavernier found the net from 25 yards with a powerful right-footed effort.

Riley McGree’s deflected shot on 53 minutes sealed a vital victory.

Middlesbrough knew a win was imperative with just two games remaining in their bid to finish sixth in the Championship and overtake Sheffield United in the final play-off position, with no room for slip-ups against a Cardiff side safe of relegation and with little at stake.

Wilder made one change from the Boro side that drew 1-1 at Swansea City on Saturday, with on-loan Arsenal striker Folarin Balogun replacing Josh Coburn in attack.

Bluebirds boss Steve Morison – who has admitted he is already eyeing next season – made two changes from Cardiff’s 1-0 defeat at Sheffield United, with Wales midfielders Rubin Colwill and Will Vaulks replacing the injured Joel Bagan and Joe Ralls.

On paper the incentive to impress was far greater for the hosts, but it was Cardiff who edged the early exchanges.

The Bluebirds switched formation as well as personnel for their visit to the Riverside Stadium as they lined up with an unfamiliar back four and a midfield diamond, and they looked comfortable as they restricted the hosts though they created little of note.

Middlesbrough began to exert more pressure and they found a breakthrough on 28 minutes when Jonny Howson picked out Tavernier, who fired home from 25-yards as Cardiff’s defenders failed to close him down – despite goalkeeper Dillon Phillips getting a hand to the ball.

Goalkeeper Dillon Phillips of Cardiff gathers from attack
Middlesbrough had lost three successive league games at the Riverside Stadium before beating Cardiff

Cardiff chances were few in the first period, but they did create a good opening in stoppage time when Colwill’s impressive run and pass found Jordan Hugill in the penalty area, but he fired over the crossbar.

The Bluebirds have scored more than 80% of their league goals this season in the second half of games.

But by the time Max Watters forced Boro goalkeeper Luke Daniels to tip his effort over the crossbar, the hosts were 2-0 ahead as McGree’s shot deflected off Curtis Nelson and past Phillips’ despairing dive.

Watters almost atoned for his miss when his cross struck the Boro bar with Daniels beaten, but it was the hosts who then almost added to the scoring when McGree headed wide from Marc Bola’s cross.

Middlesbrough won the reverse fixture 2-0 in October – in a contest that proved the final straw for Bluebirds boss Mick McCarthy, who stepped down following an eighth straight defeat – and they completed a first league double over Cardiff since the 2014-15 season with relatively few scares.

Substitute Mark Harris’ tame header was held by Daniels, but Cardiff could not find a goal as they slipped to a 23rd league defeat of the season – having lost four in a row and five in six – meaning they remain 19th.

  • Line-ups
  • Match Stats
  • Live Text

Line-ups

Middlesbrough

Formation 3-5-2

  • 28Daniels
  • 2Dijksteel
  • 22Bamba
  • 17McNair
  • 35JonesBooked at 88mins
  • 48McGree
  • 16HowsonBooked at 90mins
  • 7Tavernier
  • 27Bola
  • 18WatmoreSubstituted forConnollyat 76′minutes
  • 47BalogunSubstituted forSporarat 61′minutes

Substitutes

  • 1Lumley
  • 4Hall
  • 10Payero
  • 11Sporar
  • 14Peltier
  • 26Connolly
  • 37Coburn

Cardiff

Formation 4-3-1-2

  • 1Phillips
  • 17Drameh
  • 16NelsonBooked at 27mins
  • 42DenhamBooked at 62mins
  • 38Ng
  • 22Doyle
  • 15WintleBooked at 33mins
  • 27Colwill
  • 6VaulksBooked at 90mins
  • 23WattersSubstituted forM Harrisat 63′minutes
  • 9HugillSubstituted forCollinsat 80′minutes

Substitutes

  • 2McGuinness
  • 5Flint
  • 19Collins
  • 29M Harris
  • 32King
  • 34Semenyo
  • 43Luthra
Referee:
Matt Donohue
Attendance:
19,727

Match Stats

Home TeamMiddlesbroughAway TeamCardiff
Possession
Home46%
Away54%
Shots
Home14
Away8
Shots on Target
Home4
Away4
Corners
Home9
Away4
Fouls
Home6
Away16

Live Text

  1. Post update

    Match ends, Middlesbrough 2, Cardiff City 0.

  2. Full Time

    Second Half ends, Middlesbrough 2, Cardiff City 0.

  3. Post update

    Foul by Tommy Doyle (Cardiff City).

  4. Post update

    Isaiah Jones (Middlesbrough) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  5. Post update

    Attempt blocked. Rubin Colwill (Cardiff City) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Tommy Doyle.

  6. Post update

    Corner, Cardiff City. Conceded by Anfernee Dijksteel.

  7. Post update

    Attempt blocked. Tommy Doyle (Cardiff City) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Mark Harris.

  8. Post update

    Attempt saved. Andraz Sporar (Middlesbrough) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Marc Bola.

  9. Booking

    Will Vaulks (Cardiff City) is shown the yellow card.

  10. Booking

    Jonny Howson (Middlesbrough) is shown the yellow card.

  11. Post update

    Foul by Will Vaulks (Cardiff City).

  12. Post update

    Jonny Howson (Middlesbrough) wins a free kick on the left wing.

  13. Booking

    Isaiah Jones (Middlesbrough) is shown the yellow card.

  14. Post update

    Corner, Middlesbrough. Conceded by Oliver Denham.

  15. Post update

    Attempt missed. Sol Bamba (Middlesbrough) right footed shot from the right side of the six yard box misses to the right. Assisted by Patrick McNair with a cross following a corner.

  16. Post update

    Corner, Middlesbrough. Conceded by Curtis Nelson.

  17. Post update

    Attempt blocked. Patrick McNair (Middlesbrough) header from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Jonny Howson with a cross.

  18. Post update

    Corner, Middlesbrough. Conceded by Curtis Nelson.

  19. Post update

    Foul by James Collins (Cardiff City).

  20. Post update

    Patrick McNair (Middlesbrough) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

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