Middlesbrough 2-0 Burton Albion - 15-Aug-2017 : Match Report
Britt Assombalonga began the job of repaying his price tag with the first goals of his Middlesbrough career in a 2-0 Sky Bet Championship win over 10-man Burton.
Assombalonga arrived as Boro's record transfer recruit for B#15million from Nottingham Forest this summer, and quickly set about ingratiating himself to the Riverside faithful against an overmatched Albion side.
Burton entered the game amid claims from chairman Ben Robinson they would offer former sprinter Usain Bolt a trial - and looked every bit a team needing inspiration.
Indeed, Nigel Clough's men slipped to a third successive defeat to begin their campaign as Assombalonga netted either side of half-time.
A bad night was compounded with 12 minutes remaining when substitute Hope Akpan was sent off for a two-footed lunge on Lewis Baker.
Middlesbrough boss Gary Monk picked the same XI that controversially overcame Sheffield United 1-0 on Saturday, with forwards Rudy Gestede, Patrick Bamford and Assombalonga interchanging in a fluid 4-3-3.
Burton, who made three alterations to the side that lost 4-1 at Hull, two of which were enforced by injury and suspension, edged the opening exchanges.
Yet the visitors were architects of their own downfall as Assombalonga netted in the 23rd minute. Kyle McFadzean was caught on the ball by Gestede, who freed the forward to slide home from a tight angle.
It should have been 2-0 moments later, Bamford heading Adam Forshaw's delicious centre wide with the goal gaping.
Middlesbrough's striking triumvirate were suddenly causing Albion all manner of problems and Gestede was next to threaten when heading straight at Stephen Bywater.
Nigel Clough's side then offered a reminder of their own threat as Matty Palmer curled narrowly wide from 20 yards.
Assombalonga almost picked up where he left off after half-time, only to side-foot wide when one-on-one with Bywater following a delightful Bamford through-ball.
And Boro were thankful to stay ahead soon after, with Cyrus Christie called upon to deny Palmer from six yards via a sliding challenge.
That appeared to reawaken Middlesbrough, who added their second when Assombalonga tapped into an empty net after Bywater had parried Gestede's effort into his path.
The goal appeared to knock the wind out of the sails of Burton, whose night went from bad to worse as Akpan was given his marching orders.
Middlesbrough mercifully took their foot off the pedal thereafter, although Baker went close to a third when curling narrowly wide.
The on-loan Chelsea forward then spurned an even better effort, hitting into the side-netting after good work from fellow substitute Adama Traore.
However, his misses mattered little as Boro cruised to the points.