Boro have Arca to thank for avoiding drop zone

Julio Arca saved Middlesbrough from the grisly prospect of spending Christmas Day in the Barclays Premiership drop zone as his second-half strike sunk Charlton at the Riverside Stadium.

Middlesbrough 2 Charlton 0

Julio Arca saved Middlesbrough from the grisly prospect of spending Christmas Day in the Barclays Premiership drop zone as his second-half strike sunk Charlton at the Riverside Stadium.

The Argentinian drilled a powerful left-foot effort past Addicks keeper Scott Carson in the 52nd minute to put the seal on a workmanlike performance from Gareth Southgate's men.

But there was no such festive cheer for beleaguered Charlton boss Les Reed, who saw his side cast further adrift in the bottom three after another unnecessarily negative display.

From the moment Yakubu evaded two challenges in the box to prod Boro into a 29th minute lead, a win for the home side was scarcely in doubt with the visitors showing little inclination to attack.

Reed had made four changes to the side humbled by Wycombe Wanderers in the Carling Cup in midweek, but to little avail as the home side immediately set about ending a run of six games without a win.

That sequence temporarily dumped Boro into the bottom three after West Ham's point in the early kick-off, but the news did not affect Southgate's men who started brightly.

Stewart Downing's dangerous free-kick was headed away by Jonathan Fortune then the returning Emanuel Pogatetz headed weakly straight at Carson after George Boateng's inch-perfect cross.

With Arca bossing the midfield with plenty of tenacity, Charlton were camped in their own half and strung five men across the box with Darren Bent cutting an increasingly dejected figure on his own up front.

Arca had a chance in the 10th minute when Yakubu knocked on James Morrison's ball from the right flank, but the midfielder mis-timed his shot and rolled it well wide of target.

Boro came closer in the 13th minute when another Davies cross fell to Morrison in the box, but defender Talal El Karkouri was in the right place to block the eventual header.

After a delay while Arca had treatment following a foul by the physical El Karkouri, Boro resumed their dominance with Yakubu firing an audacious overhead kick over the bar under pressure from Fortune.

Finally the visitors showed some ambition in the 22nd minute when Radostin Kishishev threaded a through-ball towards Matt Holland in the Boro box only for Davies to get back and make a crucial interception.

Charlton had another chance in the 25th minute when Davies cleared Bent's cross from the right into the path of Amdy Faye, whose ambitious long-range volley flew well wide.

Boro's lead came at the end of a fine move which started with Mark Viduka charging over the half-way line. The Australian found Morrison who in turn picked out Yakubu in the right side of the box.

The Nigerian striker skipped over the sliding challenge of El Karkouri and stepped inside the advancing Carson before knocking home his sixth goal of the season to put Boro in front.

Somehow Charlton almost snatched an equaliser in the 38th minute when Bryan Hughes lofted in a corner which seemed to strike El Karkouri before squirming just wide of target.

And as a poor half edged towards its conclusion Djimi Traore also had a shooting chance for the visitors with a long-range left-footed effort which swerved wide.

It was back to business as usual in the second half, and a blunder by Addicks defender Osei Sankofa gifted Boro their chance to effectively wrap up the match.

Sankofa needlessly booted the ball out for a corner which was sent back across the box to Arca, who drilled his shot under Carson and gave him his first goal for the club.

Poor as they were, Charlton had good reason to consider themselves unfortunate one minute later when Faye's shot appeared to strike Woodgate's arm in the box but referee Rob Styles waved play on.

And they might have made it a few anxious final minutes for the Boro when Mark Schwarzer was caught out of his box and Hughes hooked the ball goalwards only to see Pogatetz clear it off the line.

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