Middlesbrough impressed with a hard-working and positive performance that will have ticked all of caretaker manager Steve Agnew's boxes Sunday. Although relegation still looks almost certain for the Teessiders, Sunday's showing was far from the negative and uninspired displays at home under Aitor Karanka. Boro went all-out today, contained a high-quality Manchester City side well and were unlucky to not come away with all three points.
All of the heart and soul that Boro fans thrive on were visible throughout the squad. Striker Alvaro Negredo seemed to have an extra lift, playing against his old club, and the fight and spirit that have been lacking in some recent games were there in full force. Boro were defensively solid and put themselves about in City's half enough to make the point that they were here to contest the game.
An unforgivably poor decision from referee Kevin Friend to award a penalty to the away side after Leroy Sane threw himself down in the box put the dampeners on an otherwise punchy Boro performance.
7 (out of 10) -- Agnew's game management has been questioned lately, but he prepared well against City and managed to frustrate the top-four contenders in the first half. When City came out and piled on the pressure in the second period, Agnew unleashed Adama Traore late with good timing and managed to weather the City's storm.
Player ratings (1-10, with 10 the best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Brad Guzan, 7 -- Guzan pulled off some excellent stops, particularly in the first half, to keep City frustrated and Boro in the mix.
DF George Friend, 6 -- Friend's energy and motivation helped propel Boro forward and out of danger under pressure. His rampant forward run in the first half created the Negredo goal out of sheer grit and determination.
DF Calum Chambers, 7 -- Some more lion-hearted play from Chambers in the central position by Gibson where he performs at his best. He scored his first goal for Boro to help keep hopes running high at the Riverside.
DF Ben Gibson, 7 -- The Captain kept his players in rank after they were outraged at the decision to award a City penalty midway through the second half.
DF Fabio, 6 -- Another tough tackler who was a great pressure reliever and battled until the last minute.
MF Adam Clayton, 8 -- Playing against his boyhood club is always a real moment for Clayton, who did not shirk any tackles and battled for the full 90 minutes. He was a tour de force and helped Boro to win the midfield battle.
MF Marten de Roon, 6 -- The in-form Dutchman beavered away all game once again -- and was harshly ruled to have tripped Leroy Sane just inside the Boro box. The penalty moment aside, De Roon had a solid performance throughout.
MF Adam Forshaw, 5 -- He was short on attacking ideas at times, but Forshaw helped close down the gaps in the Boro midfield and supported the back four well.
MF Stewart Downing, 7 -- Downing enjoyed himself today, with plenty of opportunities to get forward and provide attacking momentum. He showed his experience in the face of potential adversity.
MF Cristhian Stuani, 6 -- Boro always perform better with Stuani in the team -- or so the stats say. He worked hard and made the runs today but enjoyed little output.
FW Alvaro Negredo, 7 -- The Spaniard turned things up a notch against his former employers and caused plenty of trouble inside the City box.
MF Adama Traore, NR -- Brought on for fresh legs, Traore caused panic amongst City for one attack but made little impact on the rest of the proceedings.
FW Rudy Gestede, NR -- He once again offered a more direct threat and had some good chances, but Boro were more concerned with wrapping the game up after conceding a second goal for a 2-2 tie.