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Match Reports

Hernandez's strike the difference at Boro

30 March 2019

Onel Hernandez's second-half strike was enough to help Norwich City to a crucial 1-0 victory at Middlesbrough.

Following a closely-fought first-half, City took the lead ten minutes after the restart when Hernandez cut inside from the left and sent a low strike into the bottom corner.

City could have added to their lead and faced some minor scares at the other end, but they held on for their seventh victory of the season and extend their lead at the top in the process.

Daniel Farke once again named an unchanged starting XI – the seventh match in a row he has done so. He also travelled with the same 18-man squad for the fourth straight fixture.

Middlesbrough enjoyed the first sight at goal after just three minutes. A long Ryan Shotton throw-in was nodded away by only as far as George Friend who blasted over from the edge of the box.

Boro continued their positive start and former Canaries midfielder Jonny Howson hit a low drive towards goal on seven minutes, but it was straight at Tim Krul. He swept the ball wide to George Friend moments later but he could only hit straight at the City stopper as well.

After City almost created an opening through Onel Hernandez, Boro came close to opening the scoring on 14 minutes when Ashley Fletcher curled inches wide after a Britt Assombalonga lay-off.

At the other end, Teemu Pukki was thwarted by a terrific reflex save from Darren Randolph after he diverted Onel Hernandez’s cross towards goal. Kenny McLean then went close with a long range effort seconds after.

After a frenetic opening 15 minutes, the game settled as City looked to get into their passing rhythm, however Boro’s press was making that difficult. On 28 minutes, the hosts won the ball high up the pitch and Fletcher got a shot away from the edge of the area but it was straight at Krul once again.

On 33 minutes, City did some successful pressing of their own and the ball was worked wide to Hernandez on the left. His touch looked to have set him with a clear path to goal but Dani Ayala slid, handled the ball and was rightfully booked.

Pukki had a great chance to break the deadlock on 39 minutes after Shotton made a mess of a clearance. The Finn raced clear but was forced wide, allowing Randolph to close down the angle and beat away his close-range strike.

Just minutes after the restart, Boro almost grabbed the advantage when a long throw-in by Shotton was nodded onto the post by Ayala.

But City started to enjoy more possession in the final third after that and they managed to take the lead on 54 minutes. Ben Godfrey won the ball in Boro's box and fed wide to Hernandez who cut inside and managed to squeeze a low strike through a sea of bodies and inside the near post.

Pukki was sent clear once again on 62 minutes by Marco Stiepermann but his goalbound strike was deflected wide by Aden Flint, although a corner wasn't given.

City continued to set about looking for a second and Hernandez took aim for a double on the day when he exchanged passes with Buendia inside the box but this time, the Cuban's strike was straight at Randolph. On 75 minutes, Buendia had a go of his own following a Jamal Lewis cross but he shot wide first-time.

Moments later, Boro had a great chance to equalise when Friend's cross is met by the head of substitute Stewart Downing. Luckily for City, Christoph Zimmermann was there to clear off the line. 

With just a minute of normal time remaining, Mo Besic swung a ball to the back post and it looked as if Aden Flint was going to stab home, only for Tom Trybull to block superbly, much to the delight of the teammates around him.

As City repelled another Boro long ball, the referee blew his whistle to spark jubilant scenes on the pitch and in the stands with the away support.

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