Stoke 2 Middlesbrough 0: Boro enter drop zone as cracks appear at back

Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka.
Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka.
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struggling Middlesbrough dropped down one from 17th to enter the relegation zone as their winless run in the league extended to a 10th game.

It was the fourth league match in a row that saw them fail to score, and registering goals has been a major problem throughout the campaign for Boro – they have just 19, the lowest tally of any club in the division.

Defensively, things have been fairly solid for the Teessiders in general, with them heading into Saturday’s contest having conceded just 28 times in 26 games.

But chief Aitor Karanka, who lost centre-back Daniel Ayala to a hamstring injury early on in the match, was disappointed with his side’s defending for both goals, particularly given the way they had prepared for Stoke.

Karanka said: “When we were trying to get confidence in the game we conceded a goal – in a way we knew, because we had seen on video. We conceded the second goal from a set-piece.

“When you are playing to survive in the Premier League, to concede those goals – in situations we knew before the game –it is difficult. This is the Premier League and one mistake, you are punished.”

Stoke chief Mark Hughes feels Marko Arnautovic should be showing the kind of form he did on Saturday more often.

A sparkling display from the Austrian winger at the bet365 Stadium saw him net both of the Potters’ goals.

The first came in the 29th minute when he controlled Glenn Whelan’s long forward pass, got away from George Friend and past Victor Valdes before firing into the net.

Arnautovic then added a close-range finish in the 42nd minute after Peter Crouch headed the ball his way from a corner, taking his tally of Premier League goals for the season to five.

Stoke City: Grant, Johnson, Shawcross, Martins Indi (Afellay 87), Pieters, Cameron, Whelan, Arnautovic (Diouf 65), Allen, Sobhi, Crouch (Berahino 79). Unused substitutes: Bardsley, Adam, Walters, Given.

Middlesbrough: Valdes, Da Silva, Ayala (Bernardo 8), Gibson, Friend, Leadbitter (Guedioura 75), de Roon, Clayton, Ramirez (Stuani 46), Gestede, Traore. Unused substitutes: Negredo, Guzan, Barragan, Forshaw.

Referee: C Pawson (South Yorkshire).