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Boro send Sunderland crashing out of Capital One Cup
SUNDERLAND were dumped out of the Capital One Cup at the hands of neighbours Middlesbrough, with Scott McDonald once again the Boro saviour.
Martin O'Neill's side were every bit as awful as Middlesbrough were superb, with McDonald continuing his Boro rehabilitation with a well-taken first-half goal.
Tony Mowbray's side go into the draw for the quarter-finals after a game they never looked in danger of losing.
For the second time in successive derby games, Sunderland, as hosts, went behind first. But while Newcastle scored after three minutes a fortnight ago, Middlesbrough had to wait 39 minutes before taking first blood in the Wear-Tees derby. And, unlike the Wear-Tyne derby, there was no late equaliser on the agenda.
In truth, it was no more than the visitors deserved in a half in which the Championship high-fliers dominated. McDonald continuing his fine run of form in a Boro shirt to flick Ishmael Miller's cross past Keiren Westwood.
The Australian's goal came after a succession of Boro chances from distance, with former Sunderland midfielder Grant Leadbitter firing wide on 19 minutes, before McDonald hit the bar from 25 yards out on the half-hour mark.
Faris Haroun had forced a smart save out of Westwood on 11 minutes as Boro, watched by 2,800 visiting fans high in the North Stand, steadied the ship after Sunderland had gone close to opening the scoring in the opening exchanges. Adam Johnson, facing his old side for the first time in a Sunderland shirt, fired a corner towards Jason Steele's near post, hitting the rebound back in where Louis Saha blazed over.
The hosts' next meaningful effort was half an hour later, when John O'Shea headed wide from Johnson's cross.
Middlesbrough's goal spurred a remarkably lacklustre Sunderland side into life, and Steven Fletcher's header brought a good save out of Steele moments before the half-time whistle.
Sunderland's failure this season lies in the creation of chances – a problem which seldom looked like being solved against Middlesbrough. Saha fired well over seconds after the restart, while Fletcher's tame effort three minutes later caused no real trouble for Steele.
Stephane Sessegnon looked lively in patches, with his shot on the hour mark whistling past Steele's post, while a Johnson cross threatened to cause problems for Boro's backline moments later but the chance fizzled out.
James McClean was thrown into the fray in an attempt to effect a change after scoring twice in the last Capital One Cup outing on Wearside, but the Northern Irishman was well shackled by Boro's defence, being forced to wait until the 79th minute before making a telling contribution – even then, his cross was well claimed by Steele.
As the minutes ticked by, it was Middlesbrough who looked more likely to score again, with Westwood saving from Haroun and McDonald in the space of two minutes, while full-back George Friend carved through the Black Cats' defence and fired over the bar.
McClean saw an 89th minute shot deflected out for a corner, which found Sessegnon unmarked, but the Benin international simply nodded wide.
In injury time, Westwood piled forward with the ball, lumping a decent crossfield pass, which was flicked on by Fraizer Campbell, but fell agonisingly short for Fletcher.
However, it was too little too late for the hosts, as the boos rung out for a team which, in O'Neill's eyes at least, could have been in with a shout for the honours this season.
SUNDERLAND (4-3-1-2): Westwood; Bardsley, O'Shea, Cuellar, Colback; Johnson (Campbell 82), Cattermole,Vaughan; Sessegnon; Fletcher, Saha (McClean 60). Subs: Wickham, McFadden, Kilgallon, Meyler, Mignolet.
MIDDLESBROUGH (4-4-2) Steele; Hoyte, Hines (Parnaby 65), Bikey, Friend; Haroun, Leadbitter, Bailey, Ledesma (Reach 80); McDonald, Miller (Smallwood 93). Subs: Leutwiler, Park, Halliday, Zemmama.
Referee: Phil Dowd (Stoke on Trent)
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