Sheffield Wednesday 1 Middlesbrough 3
GOALS from Adam Reach, Diego Fabbrini and Cristhian Stuani eased Boro to their first win at Hillsborough since 2009 and just their second in 21 seasons. GORDON COX reports.
As expected there were changes to the sides that won their midweek cup games, Boro at Burton and Wednesday here against Oxford United.
Wednesday carved out an early chance with Lucas Joao working his way into a shooting position but having his shot blocked and deflected for a corner.
Boro settled and before long were taking the game to the home side, creating plenty pressure, but not too many chances.
That was until the 15th minute when Adam Clayton delivered a telling cross from 22 yards, Daniel Ayala powered in a header and Lewis Price produced a smart save.
Boro continued to create the better chances. Stewart Downing, playing on the right in his 500th career game, powered away before looking up to assesses options. A low ball squared back to Reach set up a chance but a drilled shot was blocked by Price.
Wednesday were compact and Boro were kept busy trying to work out a way through and for long spells it was a case of the visitors being the better side, but also the most frustrated.
That was until the 42nd minute when Wednesday failed to clear a Grant Leadbitter corner and Adam Reach slammed home from close range.
A couple of minutes later a mix-up between Price and his captain Tom Lees almost set Reach up for a simple second, but Wednesday got a fortunate run of the ball and scrambled clear at the expense of a corner.
Half-time: Sheffield Wednesday 0 Middlesbrough 1
Carlos Carvalhal made a change during the break replacing Ross Wallace with Atdhe Nuhiu.
It was Alex Lopez however who had Boro under pressure early in the second as he cut past two on the edge of the box and shot low and just wide.
There was much more energy in Wednesday’s game in the opening 10 minutes of the second half and Dimi Konstantopoulos produced a flying save to turn away a Lopez free-kick.
Aitor Karanka made a change with 58 minutes as Kike made way for David Nugent.
With just short of 65 minutes gone Boro had the chance of a break but Fabbrini’s control let him down with options either side.
Wednesday swept forward and with a crowded box in front of him Marco Matias went for goal from the edge of the penalty area. His shot took a wicked deflection and looped over Konstantopoulos.
Parity lasted no more than 90 seconds as David Nugent released Diego Fabbrini who had as much of the Wednesday half as he wanted to run into before coolly slotting low past Price from inside the penalty area.
The goal took the wind out of Wednesday’s sails and settled Boro who never looked back.
Victory was assured five minutes from the end of normal time as Cristhian Stuani, on for Downing, edged away just right of centre and still with a bit to do, but a low shot drilled at an angle from 10 yards flew past Price.
It was nearly four deep in injury-time as another sub, Adam Forshaw, rose to meet a right-wing cross and headed for goal. The ball beat Price, but hit the goalkeeper on his back on the way back into play off the right hand post.
The final attack of the game could easily have brought another, but the wrong option was taken on the break and all chance was lost.
But by then Boro had done more than enough.
Scorers Reach 42, Matias 65, Fabbrini 66, Stuani 85.
Sheffield Wednesday: Price, Hutchinson (Semedo 21), Matias, Lees (Capt.), Wiggins, Joao, Lee, Lopez (Sougou 75), Sasso, Hunt, Wallace (Nuhiu 46). Subs: Wildsmith (gk); Palmer, Turner, McGugan.
Middlesbrough: Konstantopoulos; Nsue, Ayala, Gibson, Friend, Downing (Stuani 68), Leadbitter (Capt.), Clayton, Reach, Fabbrini (Forshaw 84), Kike (Nugent 58). Subs: Mejias (gk); Kalas, Woodgate, Stephens.
Referee Mark Heywood
Sheffield Wednesday Lopez 74, foul; Matias 89, foul.
Middlesbrough Gibson 27, foul; Clayton 45+2, foul; Nsue 75, foul.
Conditions Bright and mild with the merest hint of a breeze
Possession Sheffield Wednesday 44% Middlesbrough 56%
mfc.co.uk Man of the Match Daniel Ayala