Middlesbrough continue promotion push with comfortable victory at Cardiff
Middlesbrough cemented third place in the Championship with a comfortable 3-1 win at relegation-threatened Cardiff City.
First-half goals from Marcus Forss and Cameron Archer and a 90th-minute Riley McGree strike earned Michael Carrick’s men their fifth victory in six games and kept them in pole position for a play-off place.
Defeat for the Bluebirds – who equalised through Sory Kaba in the 25th minute – leaves manager Sabri Lamouchi still searching for his first point since taking over from the sacked Mark Hudson three weeks ago.
The Frenchman presided over 1-0 losses to Luton and Hull prior to this, and could already be said to be under pressure as his goal-shy side, who have gone 14 games in all competitions without a win, search desperately for some inspiration.
The contrasting fortunes of these two teams could not have been more apparent throughout the first half.
Middlesbrough finished it leading 2-1 having dominated possession and territory, restricting Cardiff to sporadic breaks.
The opening goal arrived in the 17th minute and was the product of a pinpoint Middlesbrough passing movement.
McGree and striker Archer combined to give Finnish midfielder Forss the chance to rifle his shot into the roof of the Cardiff net.
It looked ominous for the Bluebirds at that stage, but against the run of play they hauled themselves back into it in the 25th minute.
Boro had only themselves to blame as right-back Tommy Smith conceded possession to Callum Robinson.
The Cardiff striker advanced down the left flank and his low cross was on a plate for Kaba, the Guinea international signed from Danish club FC Midtjylland last month, to calmly roll the ball home.
Bluebirds supporters, who had previously seen their team score just 22 times in the league all season, responded with ironic chants of “We’ve scored a goal”, but their joy was short-lived.
Seven minutes before the break, Callum O’Dowda carelessly gave the ball away in midfield and Hayden Hackney’s through ball to Archer saw the Villa loanee round Ryan Allsop in the Cardiff goal to restore the visitors’ lead.
The home side improved after half-time, pushing back Carrick’s men with a more urgent tempo, but their lack of genuine goal threat remained.
It did not help Cardiff that their best chance fell to defender Cedric Kipre, the Frenchman failing to work Boro goalkeeper Zach Steffan with a header direct from a corner.
In the closing stages Middlesbrough’s threat was on the counter-attack and Chuba Akpom should have made victory certain when his close-range attempt to covert a Ryan Giles cross struck a post.
However, Boro did not have to wait much longer to seal the points as the unmarked McGree slotted home his side’s third goal from a cross by substitute Matt Crooks.
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