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Page last updated at 16:56 GMT, Saturday, 10 January 2009

Middlesbrough 1-1 Sunderland

By Sam Lyon

Kenwyne Jones
Sunderland's Jones celebrates his crucial equaliser at the Riverside

Kenwyne Jones struck his seventh goal of the season late on to rescue a point for Sunderland and make it nine matches without a victory for Middlesbrough.

Afonso Alves' first league goal since October looked to have earned Boro the win, the Brazilian linking up well with Stewart Downing before rifling in.

But Jones slid in to score from David Healy's superb cross to snatch a draw.

The Black Cats could even have gone on to win it from Carlos Edwards' header, but Adam Johnson cleared off the line.

Defeat would have been harsh on Boro, though, despite a grandstand finish from Sunderland that was in marked contrast to the 80 minutes of football that had preceded it.

A draw was just about the right result, although Downing more than most could feel aggrieved he was not on the winning side after an all-action display that underlined his commitment to the Boro cause despite having a transfer request denied by the club only this week.

Every point crucial - Southgate

The winger has been heavily linked with a move to Tottenham but, if his celebration following Alves's strike is anything to go by, the 24-year-old is unlikely to be going anywhere this month.

Other than Downing's contribution and Alves' strike, though, the first half was a forgettable affair, played between two sides bereft of confidence and attacking verve.

Sunderland enjoyed the better of the possession, but Jones and Djibril Cisse were sharply lacking in inspiration up front and Boro's back four easily dealt with their attacks.

Not that the hosts were faring much better, though Downing and Tuncay did at least give their fans something to warm their hands with drilled efforts from range that flew over.

Alves' 18-yard strike was therefore against type when it came on the stroke of half-time - and play barely picked up after the break.

Referee Phil Dowd did not help matters, the game barely allowed to get going at all thanks to his officiousness, although he was right to delay the match following a horrid clash of heads between Kieron Richardson and Didier Digard, the former needing stitches and the Boro midfielder eventually taken off with concussion.

Still, as the game wore on Sunderland began to press more and more, and in a frantic finale it was they and not the hosts that looked capable of pulling off victory.

Sbragia pleased with point

First Jones slid in his crucial equaliser from six yards after Healy - who had only been on the pitch two minutes - had picked him out brilliantly from the right.

Then Johnson came to Boro's rescue with a stunning backheeled clearance off the line after Edwards had headed Andy Reid's corner goalwards.

And finally only a brilliant last-ditch tackle from Tony McMahon denied Cisse after the Sunderland striker had been put through clear on goal on the stroke of full-time.

All that meant that Boro were the happier of the two sides when the full-time whistle blew, even though the draw means they are without a league win since 9 November and now sit just a point off the relegation zone.

Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate:
"We'd have liked to have got more out of the game but a draw's about fair. We had the better of the first half and scored a great goal but a couple of injuries meant we lost momentum a bit and we were hanging on in the end.

"We needed a great clearance from Adam and a fantastic tackle from Tony to save us and, as I always say, if you can't win make sure you don't lose, so from that point of view I'm happy.

"As for Downing - his performance was a real highlight. He's accepted our stance and totally understands it. He's up for the challenge of staying here beyond this month and helping us remain in this division - that's the end of it, the whole saga is done and dusted."

Sunderland boss Ricky Sbragia:
"I'm definitely happy with a point, especially after being 1-0 down.

"We got caught out on the stroke of half-time so at the break we asked them to up the tempo and the longer the game went on the better we looked. We could even have won it, but we're happy.

"I don't know if Edwards' header was over the line or not - I don't think it's even clear on the replays - but the officials didn't give it anyway, and we accept that."

Middlesbrough: Turnbull, McMahon, Riggott, Wheater, Pogatetz, Sanli, Digard (Bates 65), Walker (Johnson 47), Arca, Downing, Alves (Mido 86).
Subs Not Used: Jones, Taylor, Emnes, Huth.

Goals: Alves 45.

Sunderland: Fulop, Chimbonda, Nosworthy, Ferdinand, Collins, Malbranque (Edwards 54), Whitehead, Richardson (Healy 80), Diouf (Reid 67), Cisse, Jones.
Subs Not Used: Colgan, Tainio, Murphy, Yorke.

Booked: Malbranque, Richardson, Nosworthy, Jones.

Goals: Jones 82.

Att: 29,310

Ref: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire).

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Middlesbrough's Afonso Alves 7.76 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

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see also
Premier League as it happened
10 Jan 09 |  Premier League
Saturday's football photos
10 Jan 09 |  Football

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