How the Middlesbrough players rated vs Stoke

Alvaro Negredo of Middlesbrough

Boro got their season underway with a 1-1 draw at the Riverside against Stoke. How did they perform?

Victor Valdes - 6/10

Middlesbrough's Victor ValdesMiddlesbrough's Victor Valdes

The Spaniard didn't really have much to do on his Boro debut, but distributed tidily from the back. That said, he could have done better with the goal that he conceded from Xherdan Shaqiri's free-kick.

As seems to be the modern goalkeeping tactic from direct free-kicks, as the shot was being taken, Valdes took a step towards the side of the goal that he hadn't covered, the side that should have been covered by the wall. Once he takes the step, he's off balance and can't dive quickly enough to stop Shaqiri's shot that was directed towards the side of the goal that Valdes was originally covering. No howler, but perhaps something that will worry Boro boss Karanka. 

Emilio Nsue - 7/10 

Gave the ball away a couple of times in dangerous areas, but also made a few interceptions of his own to set up Boro counter attacks. A player that can defend solidly but also get forward, he will be an important part of the squad this year. 

Antonio Barragan - 8/10 

Slotted seamlessly into the Boro backline and acquitted himself really well alongside Ben Gibson, blocking and clearing everything that came his way. For a player brought in as a right-back for £3 million, Barragan looks to be a very astute by indeed by the Teessiders. 

Ben Gibson - 8/10 

Middlesbrough's Ben Gibson in action with Stoke City's Jonathan WaltersMiddlesbrough's Ben Gibson in action with Stoke City's Jonathan Walters

In the absence of Daniel Ayala, Boro fans were looking to Ben Gibson for a big performance, and the local lad didn't disappoint the supporters. He lead from the front, with a cool head and never put a foot wrong. Perhaps this is the season where Gibson becomes a real leader in this Middlesbrough side. 

George Friend - 8/10 

Had more touches of the football in the game than anyone else, and the captain showed that he is a player that belongs at Premier League level. Some heroic work in defence, none more so than his last minute deflection to keep Phillip Wolscheid from heading at goal, but he's also one of Boro's key attacking players and went past defenders when he overlapped Stewart Downing. His importance to Middlesbrough's team cannot be understated. 

Adam Clayton - 7/10 

Middlesbrough's Adam Clayton in action with Stoke City's Giannelli ImbulaMiddlesbrough's Adam Clayton in action with Stoke City's Giannelli Imbula

Quietly went about his business, and did a reasonable job of keeping his opposite number Imbula quiet. He won't get as much time on the ball as he had in the championship, so don't expect him to dictate the tempo as much as last season. That said, he made some dangerous looking late runs towards the box and had a couple of half chances for a shot on goal. 

Marten de Roon - N/A 

The Dutch midfielder barely lasted ten minutes into his debut before limping off with a hamstring injury that may keep him out for over a month. A big blow for club and player. 

Adam Forshaw - 8/10 

His replacement, on the other hand, took his chance admirably. In the absence of club captain Grant Leadbetter and now de Roon, Forshaw really staked his claim for first team action in the Premier League. He was full of energy and made great interceptions, as well as playing a few clever balls into forward areas himself. He now has a period of games ahead in which he will almost certainly feature, and they could prove crucial to Forshaw in trying to show that he has a big future at the club. 

Albert Adomah - 7/10 

Middlesbrough's Albert Adomah in action with Stoke City's Erik PietersMiddlesbrough's Albert Adomah in action with Stoke City's Erik Pieters

Adomah produced an excellent cross to the back post for Ramirez to head across goal and Negredo to bundle in, but seemed to run out of steam in the second half of his Premier League debut. His quality on the ball is undeniable, but perhaps Adomah was out-muscled somewhat by the physical Erik Pieters. Adomah will need to develop a physical streak if he is going to mix it with the best full backs in the league. 

Gastón Ramirez - 9/10 

Middlesbrough's Gaston Ramirez in action with Stoke City's Glenn WhelanMiddlesbrough's Gaston Ramirez in action with Stoke City's Glenn Whelan

The best player on the park from either side, Ramirez was the stand out performer in the opening game. With touches that made you wonder how he has had such limited success in the top flight in the past, Ramirez was the man that Boro looked to to relieve them of Stoke pressure, and it shows as Ramirez was the player that was fouled the most times over the course of the game. An assist for Negredo's goal, and almost a goal for himself as he clipped the post with a low shot, Ramirez is Boro's key threat this season to opposition defences. He'll enjoy playing with Negredo because the Spaniard's physicality can occupy the two central defenders, leaving Ramirez space to play in the number 10 role. Big things expected from him this season. 

Stewart Downing - 7/10 

For a player that frustrated Boro fans at times last year after his big money return to Teesside, Downing made a very promising start to the season. His link up play with Friend down the left is proving to be very effective, and Downing actually plays a more limited role, tucking in to cover as Friend bombs on. With his technical ability, he's always able to produce dangerous crosses, and his Premier League know-how will be important for Boro this year. 

Alvaro Negredo - 8/10 

Middlesbrough's Alvaro Negredo celebrates scoring their first goalMiddlesbrough's Alvaro Negredo celebrates scoring their first goal

Scored a goal on his debut for the club, and aside from that looked a general handful for the whole game. Perhaps tired a little towards the latter stages of the 90 minutes, but tussled well with Stoke's centre-backs to provide an outlet for his team and allow them to move up the field. For a player that has underwhelmed with Valencia for the last couple of years he looked sharp, and Karanka clearly has confidence in his new striker to start him from the get-go. If he keeps his shooting boots on all year he can help Boro avoid a relegation battle, and his goal was created purely through his strength. A promising start for the Spaniard. 

All in all, Aitor Karanka can have no qualms with the effort that his Middlesbrough side put into their opening game. They were put under pressure by Stoke at times, but had the better chances to go on and win the match. An extremely encouraging start, and something to build on as they turn their attentions to Sunderland next week. 

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