BORO left themselves too much to do after a slow start but showed enough the second to more than compete. Writes GORDON COX from the Riverside.
The Boro side showed three changes from the side that lost at Everton as Calum Chambers stepped up to make his Boro debut, Adam Clayton return to the centre of midfield and Cristhian Stuani replaced Emilio Nsue.
Tottenham were without Harry Kane and Eric Dier through injury, they were replaced by Ben Davies, Christian Eriksen and Vincent Janssen.
A lively opening saw action at either end as Hugo Lloris raced out of the penalty area to beat Alvaro Negredo to a long ball, then Victor Valdes was tipped over as Dele Alli went for goal from 20 yards.
It took just short of seven minutes for the opening goal.
In a build-up similar to the goal scored by Seamus Coleman last week, Heung-Min Son cut through the penalty area from the left, skipped past challenges and placed low shot past Valdes from around 12 yards.
It took 15 minutes before he found the net again. In that time Boro saw plenty of the ball but could rarely put it to good use, bar the infrequent miscontrol from Hugo Lloris and Toby Alderweireld.
With a £10m+ player in virtually every position, Spurs looked comfortable.
Just over 22 minutes into the game Antonio Barragan dispossessed Heung-Min Son just in from the right edge of the penalty area. The Korean fought back and worked his way into an angle that allowed him the position to curl a superb shot beyond Valdes.
It took a good piece of defending from George Friend and smart save from Valdes to prevent another as a shot from Eriksen was blocked and a follow-up from Moussa Sissoko turned round for a corner.
In the closing minutes of the half Chambers was caught in possession close to the edge of the box by Alli who momentarily thought he was going to put Spurs three up – and should have done – but shot a yard over the bar.
Half-time Middlesbrough 0 Tottenham Hotspur 2
Boro’s game was more measured in the opening passages of the second half, though they were forced back as Spurs looked to wrap the game up.
But there was more resilience about this second half team – the same 11 as in the first – and they began to have a go.
At first it didn’t work, but the fans a change and got right behind their team.
Two changes with just short of an hour played had those fans on their feet at Jordan Rhodes was given a chance, sent on with Adama Traore to replace Alvaro Negredo and Ramirez.
Traore first move almost brought the roof off as he drew two players towards him, skipped in between and sped away towards the edge of the box.
It was move that brought no positive ending, but what it did do was signal intent.
That was seen again with another run a few minutes later as Tottenham were beginning to be forced back.
With 65 minutes played Boro pulled one back as Stewart Downing delivered a good free-kick from the left and Ben Gibson rose to power in a header.
There was little time to celebrate, there was still a job to and Boro set about their task.
Substitute Traore continued to cause problems for the visitors, as the Teessiders searched for an equaliser and in the closing stages Forshaw shot a difficult chance wide as he stretched to meet a a left wing cross inside the box.
Erik Lamela had a low shot saved as he attempted to add a third, but Spurs done enough.
Full-time Middlesbrough 1 Tottenham Hotspur 2
Scorers Son 7, 22, Gibson 65
Middlesbrough: Valdes; Barragan, Chambers, Gibson, Friend (Capt.), Stuani, De Roon, Clayton (Forshaw 81), Downing, Ramirez (Traore 58), Negredo (Rhodes 58). Subs: Guzan (gk); Ayala, Fischer, Nsue. Order of subs on 58: 1) Traore 2) Rhodes
Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris (Capt.); Walker, Davies, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Wanyama, Eriksen (N'Koudou 90), Sissoko (Lamela 69), Alli, Son, Janssen (Winks 86). Subs: Vorm (gk); Trippier, Wimmer, Carter-Vickers.
Referee Graham Scott, Oxfordshire
Boro Traore 87, foul, Friend 90, foul.
Tottenham Walker 63, foul.
Conditions Warm, sunny and dry with a stiff breeze.
Attendance 32,703 (3,010 Spurs)
mfc.co.uk Man of the Match Ben Gibson