Middlesbrough 1-0 Sheff Utd : Match Report
Rudy Gestede headed Middlesbrough to their first win of the Sky Bet Championship season as Sheffield United were denied a late leveller in their 1-0 defeat on Teesside.
Gestede, who managed just one Premier League goal along Boro's road to relegation following his arrival from Aston Villa in January, proved he should be a valuable asset at this level, from which new Riverside boss Garry Monk has been charged with escaping at the first attempt.
League One champions United showed flashes of inspiration - rolling the dice late on with the substitute deployment of returning club favourite Ched Evans - and they even thought Jack O'Connell had salvaged a point at the death.
A controversial offside call decided otherwise, however, and now the Blades are left devising new ways to break through stubborn defences following their campaign of plunder in the third tier.
Monk made four changes, introducing Gestede, Patrick Bamford, Dael Fry and Adam Forshaw for a clutch of the players who lost at Wolves last week.
Summer signing Martin Braithwaite, having experienced a niggle in training, was among those to drop out entirely.
It was the same United side that beat Brentford on the opening day and the promoted Blades appeared keen to shock again, with Kieron Freeman slipping in Leon Clarke for an early chance that was dutifully blocked.
John Fleck also got through to test Darren Randolph but Boro absorbed the scares and began controlling the tempo.
Bamford was embarrassed when his free-kick sailed into the south stand but the former Chelsea striker kept his head up and set about craftily dragging the United back-line out of shape.
His work paid dividends in the 21st minute as, with the Blades scrambling to clear, Bamford's lofted assist met Gestede for a header that looped over Jamal Blackman and into the net.
An unmarked George Friend might have done better when attacking a corner yet the Boro pressure kept mounting and Bamford and B#15million addition Britt Assombalonga were soon found falling over each other in clumsy bids to smash home from the byline.
Gestede used his height to good effect again as half-time drew near. The Benin international did not have to jump far to meet Cyrus Christie's cross from the right and head the ball against a post.
A speculative Boro siege ushered in the second half but United survived and indeed launched their own raid, which was skilfully defused by the likes of cool-headed England defender Ben Gibson, reportedly the subject of multiple summer bids from West Brom.
After the hour mark Randolph sprawled to keep out Paul Coutts' drive from a Clarke lay-off but soon the Riverside cheers turned to boos when visiting manager Chris Wilder brought off captain Billy Sharp for Evans.
The Welsh striker is back on United's books five years after his prolific first spell was cut short by a rape conviction. Evans served two and a half years in prison but was found not guilty of the offence at a retrial last October.
The man who set up two goals from the bench in Wednesday's Carabao Cup win over Walsall was not effective, though, and it was instead defender O'Connell who looked to have grabbed a last-gasp equaliser.
Two minutes into stoppage time, the former Brentford man rolled the ball into the Boro goal off his shoulders from a free-kick but the wild celebrations of the travelling Blades were confusingly cut short by the linesman's flag.