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Middlesbrough stun fans with ‘unbelievable performance’ in win over Marseille

Middlesbrough managed to stun fans with an ‘unbelievable performance’ in their 2-0 pre-season friendly win over Marseille on Friday night.

A 14,000-strong crowd at the Riverside Stadium watched a lightning-quick breakaway goal from Isaiah Jones and a confident finish by Marcus Tavernier to end their side’s pre-season preparations in the perfect style, against a team brimming with international experience.

The Ligue 1 outfit will be challenging against Europe’s elite in the Champions League next term but it was the North East outfit, tipped to win the Championship according to FourFourTwo, who start the contest the brighter of the two, claiming the majority of possession in the game’s early exchanges.

Duncan Watmore persistently carry out attacks earned the hosts a free-kick just outside the area but Marcus Tavernier was unable to test Pau Lopez in the Marseille goal.

Just minutes later, Boro broke quickly down the right through Matt Crooks with Isaiah Jones’ whipped delivery slightly in front of a lurking Tavernier.

The quality of Marseille then started to show and Arkadiusz Milik could have bagged a first-half hat-trick if it wasn’t for some finishing and a fine save from newly-signed goalkeeper Zack Steffen, who this week joined on a season-long loan from Manchester City.

The Poland international put two efforts wide of the post in quick succession before Steffen’s considerable presence blocked his right-footed strike.

In an eventful few minutes for the Marseille frontman, Milik was then unable to capitalise on a loose backpass from Anfernee Dijksteel as Steffen’s decisiveness spared his team-mates’ blushes.

With just eight days until the start of the new second tier season, Chris Wilder fielded the same 11 for the start of the second period, which started in a similar vein to the opening 45.

After grabbing three assists against Morecambe on Tuesday, Ryan Giles was unfortunate not to add another to his collection as his low cut-back found Matt Crooks in the area, but his first-time shot was well-stopped by Lopez.

Though Boro didn’t have long to wait before the deadlock was broken.

Isaiah Jones’ charge upfield was briefly intercepted by last defender Leo Balerdi, but his persistence paid off as the Boro man quickly robbed the ball back before slipping it under Lopez, to give the Teessiders a well-deserved lead.

Marcus Tavernier then put the game beyond any doubt 20 minutes later, coolly slotting the ball into the bottom right corner after some great hold-up play on the edge of the area from Matt Crooks.

Moments later, it could have been three. Riley McGree connected vigorously with a first-time volley but Lopez did well to push the goalbound strike to safety.

In the dying embers of the game, Ryan Giles also had an opportunity to add to the scoreline, meeting substitute Chuba Akpom’s inch-perfect cross, though the Wolves loanee was unable to divert his effort on target.

Zack Steffen also produced a fine save with just moments to go to keep his clean sheet intact, saving Cedric Bakambu’s close-range shot before Jonathan Clauss could only fire the rebound into the side-netting.

Chris Wilder refused to get excited, keeping his feet on the ground, and despite brushing aside the team that finished second in Ligue 1 last season, the Boro boss insists “a lot of work” needs to be done ahead of the Championship opener next week.

“We’re up against the top outfit and all we can do is do what we did tonight,” he said post-match. “We were good at a lot of things but there’s also a lot of work to be done.

“We talk about bodies coming into the group but it’s been a really good exercise and tops off a pretty successful pre-season. I thought the first 15 or 20 minutes were outstanding. We got out of the traps, then we just lost our shape a little bit and gave the ball away cheaply.

“When you play against good players like Payet and Guendouzi, if you give them the ball, they’re going to keep it away from you. Generally, our play in the second half was good. We were mobile, created some decent chances and delighted that we took our chances that we were created.”

Twitter users reacted as Middlesbrough stun fans with an ‘unbelievable performance’ in the win over Marseille…

@MFC_Bailey: Wilderball 🤌

@Macauleyyy17: What a goal this is btw the build up play as well

@_DS1904: Favourites for the championship by a mile for me

@Tyler_mellor03: 🎶 Champions League Your Having A Laugh 😂

@SwitcherB: Imagine if we had some extra talent in the final third, we’d literally walk the league. We’ve really got to keep hold of Tav though. Huge part of tonight’s win. Oh, and Steffan – what a signing he’s going to be.

@JoshBai35904385:
Norwich 🫱🏻‍🫲🏼 Middlesbrough
Smashing Marseille

@tobyhunterBDFC: ood win that for you lot. You look a force to be reckoned with.

@dombrown17: Quality second half. Well played

@CraigMartin0297: Fantastic result against tough opposition, announce promotion!

@BELLjr8: Fucking brilliant! 👏👏

@HodlGoblin: Steffens distribution is very good, always looks for the pass instead of just hoofing it 💪

@JackyFN4: and his recovery from when mistakes are made is amazing, he is a different breed

@_ethanferrie: Comfortably beating a champions league team. #utb

@ChrsCllwy: Clean sheet for Steffen in his debut

@notchriswilder: Well that was fucking mint.

@BrundleDaniel: Put us in the fucking champions league mate

@Craig82Scott: I don’t care who we sign for millions, Johnny Howson was the best signing we made in pre-season. Just gets better #UTB @Boro

@cals2204: Starting 11, few more improvements and squad players. Going to be a difficult team to play

@NRayner7: Steffen; Lenihan; Anf & Boles all outstanding. McNair & Fry to come back in. Jones & Giles providing pace and delivery on the flanks. Jonny Howson showing no signs of slowing down… Get some centre forwards through the door & depth in midfield & we’re about there… #UTB

@Smithy_MFC84: Friendly or not, a win against quality opposition should always be celebrated. Well in #Boro, roll on WBA! #UTB

@_mstephenson88: Superb performance tonight all over. Played some really good football too against a champions league team. 2 well taken goals and a goalkeeper who gives the defenders confidence. Get the strikers in and we have as good a starting 11 as anybody in this league.

@Jack48389843: Beating champions league teams??? Don’t need new strikers…. 👀 #boro

@OurMFC: Absolutely smashing way to round off pre-season against a side that finished 2nd in Ligue 1 last season! 👏 Looked pretty comfortable that second-half and created an awful lot of chances. More signings to come and we’re certainly looking good 💪

@alexcmfc: That second half was just brilliant, can’t think of anyone who played badly. No reason why Akpom shouldn’t be on the bench vs. WBA if he’s as up for it as he looked today

@JordanEvans1707: Brilliant second-half performance that rounds off pre-season nicely! Against a Champions League side as well. Some more additions in a few positions and we’re looking good 🙌

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