Swansea draw knocks Middlesbrough off course for a play-off berth
Middlesbrough’s quest for a Championship play-off berth looks all but over after a 1-1 draw at Swansea.
Chris Wilder’s side are now winless in five matches after Riley McGree’s goal was quickly cancelled out by Swans striker Michael Obafemi in a breathless opening to the second half at the Swansea.com Stadium.
In the space of 11 manic minutes after a forgettable first half, both sides scored, both rattled the crossbar with thunderous shots and Boro squandered two gilt-edged chances.
McGree’s strike began the mayhem in the 46th minute. His 20-yard effort found its way into the net via a deflection and the bar after a loose pass from Swans captain Matt Grimes playing out from the back had gifted the Australian midfielder possession.
It was Boro’s first goal since a 4-0 win at Peterborough on April 2 and it should have been 2-0 almost immediately, but Marcus Tavernier shot tamely into the arms of Swansea goalkeeper Andy Fisher from 10 yards out while in acres of space.
The away side were punished instantly.
Swansea swept straight up the other end for in-form forward Obafemi to net his 11th goal of the season – and his 10th in 2022 – with a low right-footed drive from Joel Piroe’s pass.
With the pace and urgency of the match unrecognisable from earlier, Boro boss Wilder was left holding his head in his hands when, in quick succession, Marc Bola’s volley crashed off the woodwork and Anfernee Dijksteel failed to finish off an incredible solo run from inside his own half.
Moments later Swansea left wing-back Hannes Wolf shook the frame of the Boro goal with a left-foot shot from a lightning counter-attack.
The mayhem could not last, and did not, but there was more intent at either end until the final whistle, despite there being no further breakthrough.
Nobody in the stadium would have predicted the lively – and at times explosive – way the game developed.
To say the first-half action was tepid would be an understatement.
The visitors played with a tempo that suggested the long journey to south Wales had sapped them of energy.
Attackers Josh Coburn and Duncan Watmore wasted half-chances in the opening exchanges during which the Middlesbrough threat was otherwise negligible.
As for Swansea, they too offered little aside from the neat passing triangles for which they are renowned.
Russell Martin’s side monopolised possession – statistics showed they enjoyed 80 per cent of it in the opening 45 minutes – but they lacked incision in the final third.
There were sniffs at goal for the prolific Piroe and midfielder Flynn Downes, but to describe them even as half-chances would be a stretch.
And when Ben Cabango skewed a shot well wide seconds before the interval it summed up a half in which neither team managed a single shot on target.
The entertainment value improved markedly thereafter, but neither side could complain about the draw.