Soccer

Stoke boost survival hopes with win over Middlesbrough

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Bae Jun-Ho netted Stoke’s opener
Bae Jun-Ho netted Stoke's opener Bae Jun-Ho netted Stoke’s opener (Tim Markland/PA)

Stoke secured a vital victory in their fight for survival as they defeated Middlesbrough 2-0 but remain in the Championship relegation zone.

A Bae Jun-ho strike before the interval – his second goal in as many games – set the Potters on their way.

And Lewis Baker added the finishing touch to a well-worked corner routine to secure a rare home win.

With the mounting threat of a first relegation to the third tier since 1998, Stoke rose to the occasion to secure just a second win in eight games and relieve pressure on boss Steven Schumacher.

Meanwhile, Boro fell to a fourth defeat in five games.

Stoke, who entered the match in the relegation zone for the first time this season, were given a “call to arms” by Jonathan Walters pre-match.

But the interim technical director’s rallying cry was nearly undone as Middlesbrough raced out of the gates.

Boro should have taken the lead inside three minutes when Riley McGree was found in the box but goalkeeper Daniel Iversen did well to race out and smother the forward.

Despite the early warning sign, the Potters gradually found their rhythm and they also spurned a glorious opportunity to snatch an early advantage.

An intricate Stoke attack ended with Jun-ho teeing up the onrushing Million Manhoef but the January recruit from Vitesse could only blaze over the target.

An end-to-end Basketball-style first half unfolded and again Michael Carrick was left ruing a sequence of missed chances.

Emmanuel Latte Lath – making his first start since December due to injury – rounded Iversen and had an open goal at his mercy but Michael Rose blocked on the line.

The Potters looked to capitalise before the interval with Seny Dieng called to action to deny Niall Ennis’ nodded header.

And the hosts’ persistence was rewarded prior to the break with an opener courtesy of the in-form Jun-ho.

The South Korean youngster shrugged off the challenge of Luke Ayling, advanced powerfully and fired a low effort beyond Dieng to rouse a vocal home support.

Stoke continued to dictate terms after the restart.

And they should have doubled their advantage when Daniel Barlaser was caught sleeping inside his own area.

A lively Baker pickpocketed the Boro midfielder and teed up Josh Laurent in the six-yard box but Dieng stood strong to keep the tie within reach.

However, the former made amends for his indecision when he eased the local faithful’s nerves with the Potters’ second inside 70 minutes.

A corner routine off the training ground ended with a drilled Baker shot deflecting off Matt Clarke beyond a wrongfooted Dieng, confirming a crucial Stoke win.