Middlesbrough 3-2 Oxford: Late Christian Stuani strike saves Boro from Oxford scare
By Charlotte Marsh
Last Updated: 18/02/17 6:38pm
A late Christian Stuani strike saved Middlesbrough from an FA Cup fifth-round replay against Oxford United as they beat the Sky Bet League One side 3-2 on Saturday afternoon.
Boro raced into a two-goal lead in the first half with Grant Leadbitter opening the scoring from the penalty spot after Stewart Downing was fouled by Chris Maguire in the box before Rudy Gestede scored a fine overhead kick.
But two second half goals in 60 seconds from Oxford saw them come roaring back into the fixture with Maguire scoring a fine free-kick in the 65th minute before Antonio Martinez added the equaliser.
Boro manager Aitor Karanka made some shrewd attacking substitutions though, and it was one of those in Stuani who slotted home in the 87th minute to see Boro into the quarter-final draw on Sunday evening.
Oxford came racing out of the traps at the Riverside Stadium and had a good chance inside three minutes as Martinez won a challenge against Bernardo Espinosa, racing forward before forcing a good save from Brad Guzan at the near post.
From then on though, the first half belonged to Middlesbrough as they continued to test the U's defence, and they found the breakthrough in the 26th minute. Downing was fouled by Maguire just inside the box, with Leadbitter making no mistake from the penalty spot by powering the ball into the top of the net.
It was nearly an instant reply for Oxford as they thought they had nabbed the equaliser six minutes later when Kane Hemmings tapped home from a Maguire cross, but he was adjudged to have fouled Bernardo in the build-up and the goal was ruled out.
Middlesbrough doubled their lead two minutes later as Gestede showed off his skills with a fine overhead kick. Fabio got away down the right-hand side, his cross finding Adama Traore at the back post who in turn flicked on for his striking team-mate. Gestede then readied himself before hitting the bicycle kick that fired past Oxford goalkeeper Simon Eastwood.
And the hosts could have added a third in the first half as Fisher slid the ball into the path of Downing in the middle of the box, but his effort was tipped around the post by the fingertips of Eastwood as they saw out a comfortable opening 45 minutes.
The second half had spurts of action but was a mostly quieter affair, although Oxford had their best spell of pressure at the beginning of the period and made it count within a minute of action.
After giving away the opening penalty, it was Maguire who got the first goal back for the U's to atone for his earlier mistake, scoring with a cool free-kick in the 65th minute that he skilfully chipped over the wall and into the top corner.
60 seconds later, Oxford got themselves on level terms and sending the yellow section of the Riverside into raptures. It was Maguire who was involved again as he saw his initial shot saved at the near post by Guzan but Martinez was there to poke home the loose rebound to scenes of wild celebrations.
It was then that Karanka made the first of his changes, with Stuani and Gaston Ramirez replacing Viktor Fischer and Traore, while two Oxford substitutes in Liam Sercome and Conor McAleny went close to a winner for the visitors in the 86th minute, but the latter could not direct a knockdown from the former into the net.
Alvaro Negredo was the final switch for Boro and a minute after his introduction, he nabbed an assist for the winning goal. His attempted overhead kick from a Fabio cross was pushed away by Eastwood but Stuani was lurking at the back post to poke the ball home.
It was a step too far for Oxford who could not muster another equaliser to force a replay against their Premier League opponents, with Middlesbrough finding out their quarter-final opponents on Sunday evening.