Championship

Unsung Hero: Middlesbrough’s Daniel Ayala stood tall in face of Blackburn onslaught

Unsung Hero: Middlesbrough’s Daniel Ayala stood tall in face of Blackburn onslaught

Middlesbrough’s poor start to the season continued on Saturday with a 1-0 defeat away to Blackburn at Ewood Park which dropped Jonathan Woodgate’s side into the Championship relegation zone.

Danny Graham’s 25th-minute penalty secured all three points for a Blackburn side who had lost their first two Championship matches of the season, the ex-Middlesbrough striker consigning his former club to a second-straight league defeat. [via Sky Sports]

The visitors barely threatened Blackburn’s goal at Ewood Park, although young midfielder Marcus Browne struck the post in the closing stages of the game.

With just one point from a possible nine so far in the Championship, it is the first time since 2004/05 that Middlesbrough are without a win from their opening three league matches of a season. [via Sky Sports]

The early stages of Woodgate’s time in charge were also scarred by last week’s Carabao Cup exit following defeat on penalties at home to Crewe.

Having scored three times in their opening Championship fixture against Luton earlier this month, ‘Boro have been kept scoreless in subsequent defeats to Brentford and Blackburn.

They are also awaiting a first clean sheet of the season, but among their more impressive performers at Ewood Park on Saturday was centre-back Daniel Ayala.

The 28-year-old defender was not involved in the Carabao Cup humbling by Crewe but came back into the team against Blackburn for his third league appearance of the campaign.

Ayala won four aerial duels on Saturday, the second most of any Middlesbrough player after Britt Assombalonga, and also recorded one tackle, one interception and no fewer than nine clearances, more than anyone else in the game. [via WhoScored.com]

Although he picked up a yellow card in the first half, the centre-back came to the fore for Woodgate’s side when needed to help prevent a bigger margin of defeat.

Joe Nicholson of the Hartlepool Mail wrote that Ayala was “solid at the back when ‘Boro faced a barrage of crosses into the penalty area”.

Anthony Vickers of Teesside Live said that he was “the best at the back, tidying up in the box and getting forward for heading efforts”, while also referencing the multitude of clearances from the Spaniard.

At 28 years of age and closing in on 200 Middlesbrough appearances, Ayala has become a stalwart at the Riverside Stadium and, on Saturday’s evidence, his solidity at the back could well be needed throughout the season if ‘Boro are to turn things around after starting the season slowly.

Middlesbrough fans, did you think Ayala was the team’s best player on Saturday? Comment below with your views!

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