Middlesbrough drew 1-1 with Brighton and Hove Albion.
Middlesbrough defender Daniel Ayala put in a magnificent display as his side earned promotion to the Premier League following a 1-1 draw with third-placed Brighton and Hove Albion.
The game at the Riverside Stadium was a promotion-decider - Boro needing just a draw to secure their place in the top-flight while defeat to Brighton would have seen the visitors take their place.
The encounter was very much as expected - frantic, nervy and full of incident as Christian Stuani opened the scoring for Boro, Dale Stephens equalised for the Seagulls and was later shown a straight red card.
Aitor Karanka’s men managed the game well in the final stages, and Stuani’s goal ultimately proved enough.
The Uruguay international will no doubt grab the headlines for his strike which helped send Boro back to the Premier League for the first time since 2009, yet the game’s outstanding player was defender Ayala.
|Tackles||Interceptions||Effective Clearances||Aerial Duels Won||Def Duels Won||Ball Recoveries||Mins Played|
As shown by the table provided by Opta, the former Norwich City man was simply outstanding as he put his body on the line time and again to keep Brighton at bay amid late pressure.
Ayala recorded an impressive four interceptions, four ball recoveries, nine aerial duels won, 11 defensive duels won and 13 effective clearances over the course of the 90+ minutes.
The point sealed Boro’s promotion on goal difference, and condemned Brighton to a place in the playoffs.
It has been a long season for the Teesside club, yet few could argue that promotion wasn’t deserved as Karanka’s side spent the majority of the Championship campaign occupying a place in the top two.