Middlesbrough and Sunderland played out one of the most enthralling and entertaining matches of the season, as the Tees-Weir derby ended in a 3-3 draw. The game saw both sides end the first half with ten men after the dismissals of Jake Clarke-Salter and Adama Traore.
The result means Sunderland remain bottom of the table and four points from safety, and Middlesbrough failed to take their chance and push up the table. Tony Pulis’ side move up a place to 7th, but remain two points outside of the top six.
Middlesbrough went into the game as clear favourites given the form and league position of their opponents. But it was Sunderland who drew first blood.
Joel Asoro capitalised on a defensive mix-up, as he prodded the ball home from close range. But the fragility of a 1-0 lead was apparent as Middlesbrough pushed for an equaliser soon after, and the pressure mounted on the Black Cats after Clarke-Salter saw red.
His tackle on Adama Traore looked reckless and out of control, and was deemed excessive enough by the referee to brandish the red card.
Middlesbrough struggled to create any clear-cut chances with the man advantage, but both sides were left with ten men before half-time after Traore was involved in an incident off the ball.
The linesman had spotted an altercation between Bryan Oviedo and Traore before a corner had come in, with the latter being shown a red card for an apparent shove on the Costa Rican.
The sides went in at the break with Sunderland holding a slight advantage over their rivals, but that was all to change just five minutes into the second-half.
Patrick Bamford, who scored just his second goal of the season last season, was partnering Britt Assombalonga up front from the outset, and was given more of a licence to play centrally after a change in formation following the red card.
He took the ball in his path and performed a “roulette” inside the Sunderland box, before hitting a low drive into the far corner to put Boro level.
Before the Black Cats could recuperate, Boro struck again. This time they pressed Sunderland high up the pitch and forced a defensive error, which resulted in Assombalonga baring down on goal. The striker knocked the ball past Lee Camp, but the ‘keeper brought him down.
Up stepped skipper Grant Leadbitter, who made no mistake from the spot.
But the game wasn’t finished there. Sunderland midfielder Johnny Williams soon brought the home side level, as he found space in the area to side-foot home a cross which came in from the left wing.
Sunderland looked buoyed by the equaliser, but it was Boro who got themselves back in front. Mohamed Besic played a brilliant incisive ball through the middle of the Sunderland back line, and Bamford flicked the ball up and over the keeper and volleyed home at a tight angle to make the score 3-2.
The drama was saved for the last minute of added time though, as a corner deep into the Boro box saw Callum McManaman left unmarked.
He struck the ball into the opposite corner on the volley to jubilant cheers from the home supporters, and a sense of ‘typical boro’ from the travelling fans, as the 96th minute equaliser meant the points were shared on Weirside.