Sunderland close in on play-off places with victory over 10-man Middlesbrough
Tony Mowbray’s young Sunderland side climbed back in touch with the Championship play-off places by winning the Wear-Tees derby clash with Middlesbrough 2-0 at the Stadium of Light.
The Black Cats had plenty of good chances in the first half to take the lead but it was Ross Stewart’s 11th of the season six minutes after the break that did the damage.
All Middlesbrough, who were looking for a fifth straight league win, returned down the A19 with was a red card dished out to Dael Fry for bringing down Stewart for the penalty that led to the opener.
And with nine minutes remaining Manchester United’s Amad Diallo, on loan on Wearside, hit the crucial second to cap an impressive individual display against Michael Carrick’s men in front of a 42,584 crowd in the second tier.
Sunderland, who moved within a point of Middlesbrough in sixth, can count themselves unlucky not to have been ahead at the break.
From the moment Amad, who caused the visitors problems throughout, was gifted the first big chance of the game in the ninth minute it was clear there were going to be opportunities.
On that occasion Amad, who was the recipient of a wayward pass from Middlesbrough goalkeeper Zack Steffen, controlled and fired wide when he was faced with just the stopper to beat.
The dangerous playmaker was a constant menace. He had already got in behind again before seeing a deflected shot from 20 yards end up in the arms of Steffen.
Sunderland’s Ivorian forward also created a couple of great chances during that period.
One of those ended with the ball in the net when his pass was turned goalwards by Patrick Roberts. When Steffen spilled, Stewart forced it over the line but was offside.
Long-range efforts from Darragh Lenihan and Chuba Akpom were all Middlesbrough had to show in an attacking sense – until Sunderland goalkeeper Anthony Patterson had to dive low to his right to turn behind Marcus Forss’ low strike.
Even though Middlesbrough finished the opening half stronger, there was still time for Stewart to pounce on an error of judgement from Fry. But the Scotland striker’s half volley was saved by Steffen.
Soon after the restart Fry was in trouble again. Stewart’s speed got him in behind the defender and just as he entered the box the striker hit the deck. Referee James Linington pointed to the spot and issued the red card.
After a few complaints, Steffen saved the penalty but Stewart was on hand to tap in the rebound to give Sunderland the lead.
That sparked Middlesbrough into life, despite being a man down. Lenihan forced Patterson into a save at his near post and Riley McGree hit the rebound narrowly wide when he ought to have hit the target.
Just when Middlesbrough looked dangerous in the closing 10 minutes, Amad had other ideas.
Roberts’ darting run into the area from the right was followed by a clever reverse pass for Amad to fire low inside the near post.