Home team scorers Lazar Markovic 14 Oumar Niasse 27 Abel Hernandez 33 Harry Maguire 70
Away team scorers Alvaro Negredo 5 Marten de Roon 45 +0:25
This was the most adventurous and exciting performance of Hull City’s season, a victory unlike many under Marco Silva and one that makes Middlesbrough’s task of retaining Premier League status appear grim.
Boro have not won a league match since mid-December and now sit seven points behind Hull, albeit with a game in hand. For Silva’s men, though, there is renewed hope after Swansea’s late defeat to Tottenham, a result that pulls them out of the bottom three.
If they do achieve salvation this season, Hull’s home form will have been the key. Just a few months back and this stadium was echoing with chants against the owners, but Silva’s turning of the tide in such a short space of time has been a remarkable achievement.
The goals were spread across the team – coming from Lazar Markovic, Oumar Niasse, Abel Hernández and Harry Maguire – and although Boro were a more potent attacking force than in recent weeks, their first-half efforts from Álvaro Negredo and Marten de Roon papered over the cracks of a weak defensive display which will have frustrated the caretaker Steve Agnew.
Middlesbrough had not scored an away league goal in 2017 before this crucial game and the five goals shared between the two sides in the first half, the most in any Premier League game this season, were therefore a shock to most inside the KCom Stadium.
In the fifth minute neat interplay from Rudy Gestede and Negredo down the left was followed by a fine first-time through-ball from the Spaniard to Adama Traoré. The winger jinked into the penalty area and waited, with the chance seemingly gone, before scuffing a low shot towards the far post that the onrushing Negredo gratefully steered into an empty net.
In a game that Boro desperately needed to win, it was a perfect start and one that sent the travelling fans wild. However, their advantage lasted just nine minutes before Hull embarked on a period of frantic dominance.
The Hull equaliser was provided by Markovic, his first goal for the club since joining on loan from Sporting Lisbon, a simple prod home from inside the six-yard box after Niasse had headed a deflected cross towards goal and Hernández’s initial effort was blocked by Ben Gibson. It was a scrappy effort, but indicative of Middlesbrough’s defensive woes throughout the opening half. Hull looked a threat whenever they came forward and were ahead in the 27th minute through Niasse demonstrating the kind of sharpness that has made him a key part of the Tigers’ recent renaissance by finishing swiftly following a flicked header by Hernández.
Soon Hernández was on the scoresheet and Hull seemed in complete control. Maguire played a precise ball from deep to Kamil Grosicki and the Poland attacker drove forward before squaring for Hernández to finish into a gaping net.
Boro did not know what had hit them, but they came forward themselves with great intent. Eldin Jakupovic brilliantly tipped Gestede’s header onto the crossbar before Agnew’s men controversially pulled one back. Gibson helped on a corner and De Roon was clearly in an offside position when he nodded past Jakupovic but the goal was given after a consultation between the officials.
The pace dropped slightly after half-time, with Hull controlling possession and looking to maintain their attacking pressure. Aldred N’Diaye had a low shot saved well by Victor Valdés after squirming into the Boro penalty area but the frenetic tempo temporarily abated.
Grosicki was Hull’s live wire down the left flank, as Boro’s supporters urged their side to attack with 25 minutes remaining. With a points gap looming if they could not find an equaliser, urgency began to creep into their play.
But Middlesbrough’s hopes were dashed with 20 minutes remaining and, yet again, Middlesbrough’s defending was poor. Andy Robertson whipped in a deep free-kick from the left towards Maguire at the back post and with Boro’s defence looking to exploit the offside trap, the Hull defender ghosted in unmarked and nodded past Valdés.