2016/2017 English Premier League
  • Marko Arnautovic (29', 42')

Stoke win to send Middlesbrough into relegation zone

Middlesbrough dropped into the Premier League relegation zone as Marko Arnautovic's first-half brace condemned them to a 2-0 defeat at Stoke.

Boro fell behind in the 29th minute through a fine strike from Arnautovic, who added a close-range finish three minutes before half-time.

The Teessiders, who are winless in 10 league matches and have failed to score in their last four, are down to 18th in the table, with Crystal Palace moving up to 17th, three points clear of them, with a win at West Brom.

Boro's major problem is goals -- they are the lowest scorers in the division with just 19 this season so far.

And while there was a disallowed goal for Ben Gibson in the second half, Aitor Karanka's side rarely looked like scoring and they might have lost by more, Ramadan Sobhi hitting the bar early on and having a late header well saved by Victor Valdes.

It was hardly a surprise to hear some boos from the travelling fans at the final whistle.

In a bid to aid Boro's problems in attack, Karanka replaced Alvaro Negredo with January signing Rudy Gestede among five changes to the starting XI.

But Karanka was forced to make an early adjustment at the back after Daniel Ayala limped off in the eighth minute, with Bernardo Espinosa coming on.

Stoke almost grabbed the lead six minutes later when a great passing move ended with Sobhi meeting Arnautovic's cross with a shot that came back off the bar.

There was an opportunity for Karanka's men in the 25th minute when Marten de Roon burst into the Stoke box, but his shot was well blocked by Geoff Cameron - and, soon after, Boro were a goal down.

Glenn Whelan sent a long ball forward and Arnautovic did well to control, get away from George Friend and round Valdes to fire home.

As Boro attempted a positive response, captain Grant Leadbitter's strike from outside the area flew narrowly off-target after a big deflection.

But three minutes later they conceded once more, with their defending again questionable. Peter Crouch rose above Bernardo as a corner came in and directed a header towards goal that was hooked in by Arnautovic.

Boro were booed off at the interval and began the second half with forward Cristhian Stuani having been introduced for Gaston Ramirez.

They had the ball in the net around the hour mark when Gibson tapped in, but with the flag raised for offside the effort was ruled out.

Arnautovic's impressive display came to an end in the 65th minute as he was forced off by injury, Mame Diouf being sent on in his place.

But Stoke continued to look the more likely side to score for the remainder of the contest, particularly in the 84th minute when Sobhi headed towards the corner and Valdes just managed to save.