Middlesbrough back in the Premier League after draw over Brighton

Middlesbrough back in the Premier League after draw over Brighton

Cristhian Stuani's early strike paved the way for Middlesbrough to win the so-called richest match in football and confirm their glorious return to the Barclays Premier League after a seven-year absence.

Needing just a draw against promotion rivals Brighton, Boro were pegged back by a second-half equaliser from Dale Stephens who was later sent off as the Seagulls pressed desperately for the goal that would take them up instead.

Talk of a £200million jackpot seems obscene in a region recently blighted by steel redundancies, and the celebrations at the final whistle intimated Boro's joyous supporters are more interested in a prize that money could not buy.

Seven years after sinking out of the top flight on the final day of the season, Aitor Karanka's impressive if occasionally tumultuous revolution was complete, and some of the biggest clubs in the world will be back at the Riverside Stadium next season.

Brighton, who travelled north in search of their own fairytale 19 years after Robbie Reinelt's goal at Hereford prevented them dropping out of the Football League, must now prepare themselves to seek promotion through the play-offs.

Chris Hughton's Seagulls, who had soared back into automatic promotion contention on the back of a 13-match unbeaten run, knew only a win would be good enough to join Burnley back in the top fight for the first time since 1983.

Karanka, inspired by the belief that his side had learned from last season's play-off final defeat, responded boldly by bringing Stuani back into his line-up and leaving local boy Stewart Downing and striker Jordan Rhodes on the bench.

In an opening period in which neither side betrayed signs of nerves, Sam Baldock saw a first-minute chance deflected out for a corner for the visitors, while Albert Adomah just failed to reach a Stuani cross in front of goal.

Middlesbrough back in the Premier League after draw over Brighton

Middlesbrough 1

Brighton 1

Brighton had marginally the better of the early exchanges, Stephens seeing a long-range effort tipped over, and Boro keeper Dimi Konstantopoulos plucking an Anthony Knockaert cross off the head of Connor Goldson.

Karanka's selection was spectacularly vindicated in the 19th minute when Boro grabbed their opener, David Nugent flicking on a free-kick and Stuani stretching to poke past David Stockdale in the six-yard box.

Goldson deflected a second Stuani effort over the bar and Ramirez floated an attempted lob onto the roof of the net as Boro pushed to effectively finish the job and rubber-stamp their top-flight return.

Boro ended their first half guilty of squandering a number of good opportunities to score a second, and they were punished nine minutes into the second half when Stephens headed home a Knockaert free-kick at the far post.

But the balance of the game swung dramatically just three minutes later, when goalscorer Stephens was sent off for a foul on Ramirez which left the Uruguayan to be carried off with what looked like a serious injury.

Middlesbrough back in the Premier League after draw over Brighton

Adomah could have settled the hosts' mounting nerves when he swung at a loose ball in the Brighton box with three minutes to go, forcing a brilliant point-blank reaction save out of Stockdale.

But the home side remained relatively calm through the rising tumult of eight minutes of injury time, a last, sure catch from Konstantopoulos finally signalling the inevitable, wild pitch invasion from home fans, their journey complete.

More in this Section

Manchester City register appeal against UEFA ban with CASManchester City register appeal against UEFA ban with CAS

Griezmann equaliser earns Barcelona draw at NapoliGriezmann equaliser earns Barcelona draw at Napoli

Lampard admits Chelsea were given harsh reality check by Bayern MunichLampard admits Chelsea were given harsh reality check by Bayern Munich

Coronavirus: Inter Milan's Europa League match to be played behind closed doorsCoronavirus: Inter Milan's Europa League match to be played behind closed doors


Lifestyle

I don't remember a lot of shouting in my household growing up, and neither does my twin.Mum's the Word: How did my parents manage to create a calm household?

The TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards have been revealed. These are the destinations that came out tops.3 emerging destinations to add to your travel wish list – according to TripAdvisor data

The recent death of Caroline Flack has once again brought the issue of internet trolls and cancel culture back into public discourse.Learning Points: The reality is we all play a role in cancel culture

Rita de Brún speaks with Sean McKeown, Fota Wildlife Park director and longtime Cork resident.‘You’ve got to make the changes you want to see’, says Fota Wildlife director

More From The Irish Examiner