Middlesbrough traveled to fellow relegation battlers Crystal Palace in the hopes of picking up points and opening up a gap between them and the bottom three. However, due to injuries to George Friend, Callum Chambers and Antonio Barragan (three of Boro’s four full backs), Aitor Karanka opted to try a new 5-2-1-2 formation.
This meant bringing in out of favour and not match fit Daniel Ayala as the third central defender and also meant Stewart Downing was forced to play left-wing back.
Ultimately Middlesbrough’s performance was inadequate, to say the least. Spending the majority of the first half camped inside their own half. Middlesbrough created only one real chance and spent the rest of the half inviting pressure on themselves, which they were eventually punished for in the 34th minute when Patrick Van Annholt got the only goal of the game.
In the second half, Middlesbrough came out and attacked a bit more but a lack of quality and a lack of chances put into the box meant they failed to find an answer for Palace’s first half goal.
Victor Valdes 6/10: Didn’t have too much to deal with all game, made a few decent saves. Unlucky not to get to Van Aanholt’s goal
Bernardo Espinosa 6/10: As the central defender of the three deployed by Boro he did a relatively decent job keeping Benteke quiet.
Ben Gibson 6/10: Put in a decent shift as the left-sided centre-back considering he had to help out an experienced Downing at left-wing back. He also kept Townsend quiet for most of the game.
Daniel Ayala 5/10: Lacking match sharpness and fitness he struggled to deal with Zaha for the majority of the game leaving him to0 much space on several occasions.
Fabio 5/10: Didn’t create as much as he normally does going forward, failing to put in any really dangerous crosses. Defensively he struggled to adapt to the wing back role and pushed up the field far too much leaving Ayala to deal with Zaha for the large part of the game.
Stewart Downing 4/10: Playing in a brand new role of left wing back Downing lacked the defensive instinct, being left for dead on more than one occasion by Townsend and he nearly gave up two penalties with some dangerous challenges. He also, like Fabio, did not create a lot going forward.
Adam Forshaw 4/10: Struggled to cope with Cabaye, give up possession to easily, added very little going forward and scuffed a few aimless shots. Subbed off on 61st minute.
Martin De Roon 5/10: Quiet afternoon for De Roon like Forshaw he failed to close down Cabaye and Van Aaaholt which lead to the Crystal Palace goal. He also added no attacking threat and was not as lively in the opposition box as he normally is.
Cristhian Stuani 4/10: Had several key chances, failing to connect with Alvaro Negredo’s knock down in the first half and then firing a volley start at Hennessey in the second half, should have done better with both chances. Was eventually subbed of in the 79th minute.
Gaston Ramirez 5/10: In his first start for seven games, Ramirez played in his preferred central attacking midfield role. However, he spent a lot of the game dropping deep just to become involved in the play and created no key chances for any of the strikers. Also put a free kick from a good distance straight at the Palace keeper.
Alvaro Negredo 6/10: Was very isolated up top, as usual. In the first half, he helped create Boro’s best chance when he knocked Gaston’s cross down to Stuani who was unable to convert the chance. Also had to drop deep to get involved and tried his hardest to get provide chances for Stuani. He was very surprisingly, subbed off at half time by Karanka.
Rudy Gestede 4/10: Came on at half time to replace Negredo, was barley involved in the second half due to poor service. Won a few knock downs, his most prominent involvement was a scuffed cut back that ended up being a shot.
Adlene Guedioura 6/10: The best of the three substitutes Guedioura tried to create chances going forward and played a nice one-two with Fabio leading to a shot at goal.
Adama Traore 3/10: Only on the pitch for the final 15 minutes of the match. He created no chances and failed to have a shot on target. Traore also did not take any players on like we are used to seeing. Very ineffective sub, the game would have been no different if he wasn’t on the pitch.