Middlesbrough 1-0 West Brom: Daniel Ayala lashes stoppage-time winner for Tony Pulis' side
Defender appears to handle the ball before scoring winner on first league appearance of 2018/19
By Dan Long
Last Updated: 25/08/18 7:14am
Daniel Ayala scored a controversial stoppage-time winner for Middlesbrough as they beat West Brom 1-0 in the Sky Bet Championship on Friday evening.
Tony Pulis was sacked by the visitors in November last year and found himself on the verge of a sweet victory on a number of occasions, though his side initially lacked the killer instinct against Darren Moore's Baggies.
Boro were denied a first-half penalty when Kyle Bartley tugged Aden Flint to the ground, while Martin Braithwaite should have edged the hosts in front when he blazed over minutes before the break.
Middlesbrough: Randolph (6), Ayala (7), Fry (7), Flint (7), Shotton (7), Howson (8), Clayton (7), Friend (6), Downing (6), Braithwaite (5), Assombalonga (5)
Subs: Besic (6), Hugill (n/a), McNair (n/a)
West Brom: Johnstone (6), Adarabioyo (5), Bartley (7), Hegazi (6), Gibbs (6), Phillips (6), Livermore (6), Brunt (5), Barnes (5), Rodriguez (6), Gayle (4)
Subs: Dawson (4), Morrison (n/a), Robson-Kanu (n/a)
Man of the match: Jonny Howson
A tense second half looked to be ending goalless, but in the first minute of added time, the Spaniard lashed home from six yards, though there was a suspicion around whether he handled the ball as he brought the ball under his control.
The point prolongs Boro's unbeaten start to five games, while the Baggies remain seventh as they suffer their second league defeat of the season.
Jonny Howson almost gave Pulis the dream early start with a header wide to set the tone early on, but the Baggies were almost gifted the lead after nine minutes when Flint skewed Harvey Barnes' awkward delivery onto the crossbar.
Boro were then denied a penalty when Bartley tugged Flint's shirt as he attempted to defend Ryan Shotton's long throw, but the chances continued to flow nonetheless, with Britt Assombalonga guilty of wasting Howson's square ball from just a few yards out.
Seconds before the break, Braithwaite failed to take advantage of a fortunate bounce, blazing the loose ball a significant distance over the bar, though he was perhaps distracted by the impending challenge of Kieran Gibbs.
The sole change for Tony Pulis' Boro was to bring in Daniel Ayala at the expense of Lewis Wing, who started on the bench alongside loan signings Jordan Hugill and Mo Besic. The Baggies, meanwhile, kept the same starting line-up from their ruthless 7-1 mauling of QPR last weekend.
In two rare West Brom attacks after the break, the below-par Dwight Gayle scooped a shot over the bar before Darren Randolph was called into action for the first time; Rodriguez testing the stopper's concentration with a rasping 30 yard drive.
But on a distinctly autumnal evening, Boro eventually got the result they deserved when Craig Dawson mistimed his header from returning midfielder Mo Besic's free-kick, allowing centre-back Ayala to control the ball and lash an expert volley beyond Sam Johnstone.
Man of the match - Jonny Howson
An evening on which the Boro player deserved more, despite impressing throughout and being on the victorious side. He had the first chance of the game but continued at the heart of the action, noticeably unselfishly squaring for Britt Assombalonga when through on goal, despite his team-mate squandering a golden opportunity to break the deadlock.
An essential component in the Middlesbrough machine, the 30-year-old delivered no fewer than six crosses and obtained possession on seven occasions showing his undoubted ability, and importance, at both ends of the pitch.
Darren Moore: "For 90 minutes of the game I thought we played it very, very well and then [there was] probably just a lapse in concentration, right at the end. Obviously we are disappointed to lose the game in the last couple of minutes but overall I was quite happy with the way we came up here and we dominated the game.
"You have got to give credit. The change came and stifled us, nullified us and we tried to change things tonight and tweak it, but as we changed it, they changed. We're just disappointed to concede the goal in that manner, it's never nice to concede a set-piece. We'll look at that, pick the bones out of it and reapply ourselves in the right manner for the next game."
Tony Pulis: "We've played a team today who have real Premiership quality and I think anybody who finishes above them will get promoted so it was important that we were nice and solid. But I still think we created enough opportunities, enough chances to come in at least two in front. Second half was a little bit more scrappy, a little bit more stretched but I'm very, very pleased for the players.
"We've got a week to go and we are trying to bring other players in, the chairman has been brilliant. We've brought some money in through the sale of players since I've been here so there's a little bit of money there but they have got to be good deals for the football club. If we could get two or three in, then we will be pleased with what we've got."
Both sides are in Carabao Cup second-round action this coming Tuesday. Boro host Rochdale at 7.45pm, while West Brom are also in home action against Mansfield Town, kick off is at 8pm.