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PLAYER RATING : Middlesbrough and Sunderland played to a 1-1 draw, with Michael Beale’s team showing resilience and earning a valuable point on the road. Nazariy Rusyn’s goal canceled out Marcus Forss’ opener.



Middlesbrough and Sunderland played out a 1-1 draw, with Michael Beale’s team showing resilience to earn a point on their travels. Nazariy Rusyn equalized after Marcus Forss’ impressive opener. Despite the importance of a point in the intense play-off race, Middlesbrough couldn’t help but feel disappointed as they believed they had the potential to secure a victory.

Sunderland managed to secure a draw with the help of Nazariy Rusyn, although they had plenty of opportunities to secure a victory. This highly anticipated match in the north-east ended with both teams settling for a point. Sunderland currently sit just one point away from the top six, while Boro, in 12th place, are four points behind but have a game in hand. It’s a result that both teams will have to accept and move on from.


During the first half, Michael Beale’s Sunderland team displayed their superiority, but they fell behind when Forss scored a well-executed free-kick that seemed straight out of a training ground routine. This gave Michael Carrick’s side the upper hand until Sunderland found a second wind late in the game and equalized through substitute Rusyn.


There is always a debate about whether this Tees-Wear clash can be considered a true derby, but anyone who experienced the vibrant atmosphere before the match would have no doubts. Both sets of fans contributed to the electric atmosphere, with the Riverside playlist turned off to allow the noise to build. The significant police presence outside the stadium was another indication of the animosity between the two teams.


In this goalless opening 45, the Sunday lunchtime kick-off proved to be anything but sluggish, with both teams having numerous golden opportunities. One such opportunity arose for Middlesbrough when Sam Greenwood was brilliantly set up by Lukas Engel’s precise pass from the left-back position.


However, Luke O’Nien, struggling to keep up with Greenwood’s pace, resorted to grabbing him by the arm as he approached the Sunderland box. Despite the contact, Greenwood managed to stay on his feet but unfortunately had his shot blocked by goalkeeper Anthony Patterson.


The rebound fell to Finn Azaz, a recent signing from Aston Villa, who unfortunately rushed his first-time effort and sent it over the crossbar. Little did he know that he had more time to compose himself and potentially convert the chance.


Sunderland had the better opportunities following that. Jack Clarke was relishing his battle with Luke Ayling on the left side of Sunderland’s attack, successfully dribbling past the loaned Leeds full-back. However, Tom Glover made a crucial save at the near post to deny Clarke.


Trai Hume then tested Glover with a long-range effort, but the goalkeeper made a full-length save. Furthermore, Forss made a vital block to prevent Clarke’s header at the back post.


Nevertheless, Sunderland continued to push forward, and Abdoullah Ba had a chance to pass the ball back after breaking through from Mason Burstow’s exceptional pass. Unfortunately, he hit the side-netting instead, with only the goalkeeper to beat.


Sunderland’s lineup was as follows: Patterson in goal, Hjelde, Ballard (substituted by Seelt in the 90+8th minute), O’Nien (captain), Hume in defense, Neil in midfield, Ba (substituted by Roberts in the 67th minute), Ekwah, Bellingham, Clarke in midfield, and Burstow (substituted by Rusyn in the 68th minute).


Manager: Michael Beale


Scorer: Rusyn 83


Booked: Hume, Ba, Ekwah


Referee: Darren England


Attendance: 31,716


Middlesbrough relied on Rav van den Berg’s quick thinking to clear Ba’s shot off the goal line after Jobe Bellingham made a steal down the left and Clarke passed the ball on.


The home team started the second half with more energy. Ayling attempted a shot on goal after a smooth passing sequence, but Hume blocked it. Greenwood managed to reach the ball just before Patterson after sprinting behind, but a raised flag spared referee Darren England from having to make a penalty call.


Patterson almost found himself in trouble as Forss and Greenwood relentlessly pressed him. The keeper’s rushed clearance luckily bounced off Forss and went behind.


However, Forss did punish Sunderland just after the 60-minute mark with a beautifully executed free-kick routine from the training ground. Dan Barlaser passed the ball to Hayden Hackney, who then nudged it into Greenwood. Greenwood’s pass to Forss inside the box deflected off Ekwah, but the Finn controlled it, spun, and struck a powerful volley into the bottom corner.


Engel soon set up Greenwood for another opportunity, but this time his shot missed the target.


Sunderland had offered very little in the second half, but Dan Ballard came close with a flicked header from Clarke’s free-kick.


They managed to equalize thanks to Rusyn with only seven minutes remaining. Clarke found him with a cross-field pass from the left, and the Ukrainian had enough space to control the bouncing ball.


His half-volley into the bottom corner was well-struck, although Glover could have done better as he got a hand to it.


This shifted the momentum, and debutant Luke Thomas had a nerve-wracking moment as his clearance of Clarke’s low cross almost ended up as an own goal.