Few could have predicted with any degree of certainty that Middlesbrough would not only score against promotion-chasing Cardiff City, but that they would also go on to keep a clean sheet and record a valuable win that sees them move out of the Championship relegation zone, albeit on goal difference.
At first glance, Saturday’s match seemed a no-brainer:- second from top versus second from bottom undoubtedly tipped the scales in favour of the visiting team.
Plus, with Boro’s tendency to throw away leads and lose their nerve as games progress, even taking the lead on 40 minutes did little to steady the nerves of the Riverside crowd. But Boro held firm and produced a solid team performance to deny Cardiff a way back into the game.
In winning the penalty that would bring about the only goal of the match, Marvin Emnes did his part to inflict further pain on Cardiff this season, having previously scored the winner for Swansea during his recent loan spell.
Julio Arca converted the spot kick, his first goal for Middlesbrough in more than three years, and in doing so showed once again the improvements he has made during the past few months.
Arca is now widely regarded as one of Boro’s most consistent players, intelligent both on and off the ball and making an important contribution in every game.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.