Middlesbrough 0-3 Aston Villa: Dean Smith's free-scoring Villa stroll to victory
Aston Villa have now scored 15 goals in just four games
Last Updated: 01/12/18 11:38pm
Free-scoring Aston Villa strolled past Middlesbrough with a 3-0 victory in their Sky Bet Championship clash at the Riverside.
Defender James Chester opened the scoring by scrambling home from close range (20), before Tammy Abraham netted his 11th goal in just 14 games for Villa, converting Yannick Bolasie's fine centre (65).
Substitute Glenn Whelan rounded off the scoring with his first touch, driving low from 25 yards and finding the net thanks to a howler from Boro goalkeeper Darren Randolph (83).
The result means Villa are in eighth place, having scored 15 goals in their last four games, while Middlesbrough - who saw their eight-match unbeaten run come to an end - are in third, four points off the automatic promotion spots.
Middlesbrough: Randolph (5), Fry (5), Flint (6), Batth (5), Friend (5), Clayton (6), Howson (6), Besic (5), Downing (5), Tavernier (6), Hugill (6)
Subs: McNair (6), Assombalonga (6), Braithwaite (6)
Aston Villa: Nyland (7), Elmohamady (7), Chester (7), Tuanzebe (7), Taylor (6), Hourihane (8), McGinn (7), Grealish (7), El Ghazi (8), Bolasie (7), Abraham (8)
Subs: Kodjia (6), Whelan (7), Hogan (6)
Man of the match: Conor Hourihane
Villa started the game brightly, and it took a superb diving save from Randolph to deny Abraham from 10 yards out.
Abraham then saw a penalty appeal waved away after George Friend trod on the striker's foot, but it mattered little as Villa went ahead two minutes later as Chester bundled the ball home after Randolph failed to punch a corner away.
Boro woke up after the opener, and former Villa midfielder Stewart Downing could only watch on as his effort was accidentally blocked by team-mate Jordan Hugill.
After a midweek draw at Preston, Middlesbrough reverted to the same starting XI that beat Brentford last weekend. Villa made two changes from the 5-5 draw with Nottingham Forest; Ahmed Elmohamady and Anwar El Ghazi came in for Jonathan Kodjia (on the bench) and Alan Hutton (suspended).
After the break, Abraham scored his sixth goal in a week after stretching to meet Bolasie's cross at the back post.
Boro almost made it a nervy ending for Villa, but Orjan Nyland tipped Hugill's fierce strike onto the bar.
Villa sealed the win late on when Whelan's effort from distance slipped through Randolph's grasp and trickled into the far corner, resulting in Boro's worst defeat in over a year.
Tony Pulis: "They were better than us today in all areas, right from the start. We lost a bit of confidence after they scored the first goal.
"We're short of goals and know we have to improve, but to be where we are is a testament to how hard they work. We just have to dust ourselves down."
Dean Smith: "Wednesday was a freak game. There were question marks raised about the defence and the goalkeeper, but that's four clean sheets in eight games.
"We know we've got goals within our team, but they worked very hard today and deserved that win.
"We had a lot of energy and enthusiasm. They're good players, I said that when I came in and now they have that bit of confidence."
Man of the match - Conor Hourihane
Villa's free-flowing football was only undone by the fact they conceded as many as they scored in midweek against Nottingham Forest, but Boro were no match for Dean Smith's side at the Riverside.
Hourihane was a driving force in midfield for Villa, and while he got an assist for Whelan's fortunate effort, he put in a superb all-round display against the best defence in the top four leagues.
Villa are in Friday night action at West Midlands rivals West Brom, live on Sky Sports, while Boro host Blackburn next Saturday.