The 2017-18 Championship regular season is already over but the clubs finished within third to sixth have a lot at stake in order to attain a Premier League promotion by winning the playoff. The other semi-final resulted in a 1-0 victory for the hosts Derby County over Fulham but the Saturday evening clash between Middlesbrough and Aston Villa has been a battle of two old warhorse – Tony Pulis and Steve Bruce.
Pulis earned West Bromwich Albion an incredible top-half Premier League finish last season, but the dismal form this term resulted in a dismissal and the Baggies eventually suffered a demotion. But the veteran Welshman was handed over the Managerial role at Boro replacing the sacked Garry Monk and scripted a resurgence by securing a place in the playoffs.
Villa, too, witnessed a similar uprise under Steve Bruce and the encounter at Riverside proved to be a continuation of their scintillating run as they grabbed a massive 1-0 away win which takes them one step closer to the playoff final ahead of midweek’s return leg tie at Villa Park.
Below are the Middlesbrough players rated in their disappointing defeat against Aston Villa.
Darren Randolph: 6
Made a few crucial saves, but could have done little to deny Mile Jedinak’s early header that ended up into the bottom right corner.
Ryan Shotton: 5.5
Made some forward runs, combined well with Adama on a few occasions, but lacked accuracy high up the pitch and failed to offer much down the wing.
Daniel Ayala: 6.5
The Spaniard made some crucial blocks, tackles, interceptions but struggled to deal with Villa’s crosses and set-pieces inside the box. He, however, could not continue the entire game as an injury forced him to leave the pitch to be replaced by Fabio just over an hour mark.
Ben Gibson: 6
Gibson impressed last season in Premier League and Boro, surprisingly, managed to keep hold of him this term amid interest from several top-tier outfits. He was tipped to guide them to a Premier League return but the Englishman often struggled with consistency and despite a few crucial clearances, the home encounter against Aston Villa was mostly a nervy occasion for the 25-year-old.
George Friend: 6.5
Tried to spend his time upfront with overlap runs and whipped in some decent crosses and long balls from the left. Should have concentrated more on his defensive work-rate as the Englishman often failed to track back which allowed Robert Snodgrass to explore the wing. Failed to direct his header on target late in the game from Downing’s set-piece.
Jonny Howson: 6.5
Had some successful dribble attempts but lost too many duels and also got dispossessed a few occasions in the middle of the park.
Adam Clayton: 6
Played plenty of passes, tried to orchestrate moves from a central role but struggled against Mile Jedinak as he lost many duels that allowed the opponents to have control over the midfield game.
Muhamed Besic: 5.5
The Everton loanee started the game brightly with some positive runs using the width of the field. But he faded off lately and a quiet spell after the break did not help his side much in staging a comeback.
Adama Traore: 7.5
The only bright spark in a gloomy Boro side as the wingman kept on troubling the Aston Villa defence with his pace, power and tricky runs. Also had his effort saved by Sam Johnstone in Villa goal and a few other attempts were blocked by the rigid backline.
Stewart Downing: 6.5
The experienced Englishman was accurate with his passes, crosses and link-up play. But his shooting disappointed the most and the veteran wideman could not lead his side to avoid a home defeat.
Britt Assombalonga: 5.5
Kept on trying to test the keeper in and around the box but most of his efforts were off target and saw him being replaced by Patrick Bamford late in the game.
Was lively since coming on and offered his presence high up the pitch with overlap runs.
Patrick Bamford: 6
His movements around the box kept the opponents on toes but they maintained the composure to grind out a clean-sheet.
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