MID­DLES­BROUGH .................................................. 0 Boro self-de­struct as Rams’ 17-year wait for win ends

Sunday Sun - - Football -

Derby score their open­ing goal yes­ter­day, start­ing what would be Boro’s big­gest de­feat of the sea­son MID­DLES­BROUGH were handed their big­gest beat­ing of the sea­son as Derby County ran out 3-0 win­ners at the River­side.

Matej Vy­dra took home the match ball and he won’t be­lieve his luck. Nei­ther will Derby.

The most galling thing is that Boro weren’t ter­ri­ble in the first half. In fact, they were the bet­ter side – the team largely in con­trol and the ag­gres­sors.

They had a hand­ful of chances but squan­dered them, and went into the dress­ing room be­hind. That can hap­pen in the Cham­pi­onship.

But what un­folded in the sec­ond half was a thing of night­mares. It was ghastly, an alarm­ing show of im­ma­tu­rity and a lack of game man­age­ment against a di­rect ri­val.

Daniel Ayala has a lot of ex­plain­ing to do. His foul to give Derby an early penalty af­ter the restart was mis­judged. But what fol­lowed was un­ac­cept­able.

It’s not that Boro have never clawed back a two-goal deficit. Even af­ter Vy­dra had dou­bled the Rams’ lead, Garry Monk’s side were still in the game with 43 min­utes left.

But Boro lost their cool. First it was Fabio who was involved in an ugly spat with Tom Hud­dle­stone, and then Ayala – lauded for his re­cent per­for­mances which have co­in­cided with the team’s up­turn in form – lost con­trol.

He flat­tened David Nu­gent from be­hind. He didn’t even need to wait for the red card to come out.

The sit­u­a­tion was far from ideal, but Boro could have still fought back, like they did against QPR, Brent­ford, Ful­ham, Barns­ley – twice.

How­ever, as soon as Ayala com­mit­ted his lu­di­crous sec­ond foul, the game was gone. Then it was painful.

The re­sult leaves fur­ther ques­tion marks over Boro’s abil­ity to beat the bet­ter sides in this divi­sion. Beat­ing the bot­tom six is ex­pected – but it won’t be enough to achieve pro­mo­tion.

Nei­ther will af­ter­noons like this, as Boro hit the self-de­struct but­ton.

The Rams had left empty-handed on nine of their pre­vi­ous 10 trips to Teesside, a run stretch­ing back to 2000.

On their last win here, Mal­colm Christie – then a Ram who later joined Boro – scored twice in a 4-1 vic­tory, and much of the pre-match fo­cus cen­tred around another for­ward to wear both shirts – the re­turn­ing David Nu­gent.

The 32-year-old for­mer fans’ favourite last started at the River­side on that un­for­get­table day against Brighton in May 2016 which clinched Boro’s pro­mo­tion to the Premier League.

Un­der­stand­ably, he was given a round of ap­plause from the Teesside faith­ful be­fore kick-off.

That’s where the niceties ended though, and Boro – who had scored early in four of their pre­vi­ous five games – were quick out of the blocks against a Derby side un­beaten in five away from Pride Park.

Ste­wart Down­ing – again de­ployed on the right as Garry Monk made just two changes from the side that beat Birm­ing­ham – was at the heart of it, while Martin Braith­waite found early joy as he oc­cu­pied pock­ets of space just be­hind hold­ing mid­field­ers Tom Hud­dle­stone and Joe Led­ley.

It was the Dane who was the first to fire a shot at goal, his 25-yard free­kick caus­ing mo­men­tary panic for Derby keeper Scott Car­son who was re­lieved to see the ball nar­rowly clear the cross­bar.

If any­thing high­lighted Boro’s dom­i­nant start, it was the sight of Derby for­ward Matej Vy­dra shak­ing his head in­side the open­ing 10 min­utes as he looked to close down from the front – only to see his team­mates not fol­low­ing suit.

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