Goals from Marcus Tavernier and Ashley Fletcher had put the hosts in complete control at The Riverside Stadium before Marvin Johnson saw red for a lunging tackle on Eric Lichaj eight minutes before the break. And the Tigers made their numerical advantage counter after the break as Jarrod Bowen scored twice in the space of five minutes to make it honours even on Teesside.
Tom Eaves replaced Josh Bowler in the only change to Grant McCann’s starting line-up from the home defeat against West Bromwich Albion prior to the international break, with Academy product Keane Lewis-Potter once again included on the bench.
It was the hosts who had the first attempt of the game when Dael Fry guided an early header on target from a free-kick but George Long was perfectly placed to make a comfortable save.
The Tigers responded with a couple of corners before Middlesbrough benefitted from some slack defending to open the scoring on eight minutes. After the ball was worked to the ‘Boro right, Paddy McNair’s low cross bypassed everyone inside the box only to find the unmarked Marcus Tavernier at the back post, who tapped home from close-range.
Grant McCann’s side enjoyed plenty of possession in the immediate aftermath of Tavernier’s opener but failed to seriously test the home defence or Darren Randolph between the posts. In fact, it was the Tigers’ goal that came under more threat when – following a swift counter-attack – McNair could only mis-hit his effort wide of the target when well-placed inside the 18-yard box.
Ashley Fletcher was next to try his luck when cutting inside from the right flank, firing high and wide with an attempted curler, before some quick passing play from the hosts threatened to carve out an opening for Britt Assombalonga, with the offside flag coming to the Tigers’ rescue.
A second ‘Boro goal did arrive on 27 minutes though – and once again it was too easy for the hosts. Superb combination play from Assombalonga and Fletcher saw the latter burst into the box before rounding Long and slotting the ball into an empty net.
Jarrod Bowen looked to get his side back into the game with a driving forward run, only to be upended just outside the box as three defenders in red and white attempted to halt his progress. Referee Jeremy Simpson disagreed though and waved play on – much to the frustration of the winger and his team-mates.
Long produced a fine one-handed save to keep out Johnson’s fiercely struck drive – after more neat build-up play from Assombalonga – as the hosts continued to cause problems for the Tigers’ backline.
The Tigers were handed a lifeline on 37 minutes though when Jonathan Woodgate’s side were reduced to ten men when Johnson saw red for what could only be described as an awful challenge on Lichaj, sliding in late and high on the full-back.
McCann’s men had their first real effort of the game on 44 minutes when Jackson Irvine released Kamil Grosicki. The Pole opted to shoot early but was left frustrated as his low side-footer was comfortably gathered by Randolph in what was the final action of a frustrating first half for all of a Hull City persuasion.
The home side made a change at the break with Adam Clayton introduced into the action in place of Fletcher as Woodgate signalled his intentions to hold on to their two-goal lead.
The Tigers created their first opening of the second half five minutes when Lichaj’s cross was met by Eaves, who was unfortunate to see his glancing header drift wide of the far post. Lichaj was the creator once again moments later after being picked out on the right by Grosicki, but Bowen was unable to divert the full-back’s low centre towards goal.
Referee Simpson produced a first yellow card of the game for Clayton on 55 minutes, with the substitute booked for taking too long to take a free-kick, much to the frustration of the home fans.
McCann made a double change on 59 minutes when introducing Dan Batty and Josh Bowler into the action in place of Leo Da Silva Lopes and Callum Elder, which resulted in a switch of formation to three at the back.
The Tigers saw two penalty appeals in quick succession waved away despite both Grosicki and Eaves appearing to have their shirts pulled inside the box.
The pressure was building though an only a fortunate block from Jonny Howson prevented Jordy de Wijs’ fiercely-struck drive from finding the back of the net. The Dutchman was then shown a yellow card for a cynical foul as the hosts looked to counter.
Long was called into action for the first time on 66 minutes when beating away Tavernier’s stinging drive that came through a crowd before the loose ball was eventually hacked away from danger.
Fine hold-up play from Eaves created the Tigers’ next shooting opportunity as he laid the ball into the path of Bowler. The Everton loanee took a touch before firing a low drive on target that was pushed away by Randolph.
The breakthrough finally arrived on 70 minutes though. Bowen showed great strength to burst forward with the ball before finding the bottom corner with a superb low drive that left Randolph rooted to the spot.
And Bowen was on the scoresheet once again to make it 2-2 just five minutes later. de Wijs’ header from a deep cross found the winger at the back and, although his initial header was blocked, Bowen did brilliantly to convert at the second attempt to bag his twelfth goal of the campaign in all competitions.
The Tigers were dominant in closing stages but failed to create any clear-cut openings to seriously work Randolph. That changed in the 89th minute when Kevin Stewart’s through-ball found Eaves inside the box, but the striker could poke his low effort into the side-netting.
Hull City: George Long, Eric Lichaj, Jordy de Wijs, Reece Burke, Kevin Stewart, Tom Eaves, Kamil Grosicki (Keane Lewis-Potter 90), Jarrod Bowen, Callum Elder (Josh Bowler 59), Jackson Irvine, Leonardo Da Silva Lopes (Dan Batty 59).
Subs Not Used: Matt Ingram, Ryan Tafazolli, George Honeyman, Matthew Pennington.
Middlesbrough: Darren Randolph, Anfernee Dijksteel, Dael Fry, Daniel Ayala, Paddy McNair, Marvin Johnson, Jonny Howson, Lewis Wing, Marcus Tavernier, Ashley Fletcher (Adam Clayton 46), Britt Assombalonga.
Subs Not Used: Aynsley Pears, Nathan Wood, Marc Bola, Hayden Coulson, Tyrone O’Neill, Ben Liddle.
Referee: Mr J. Simpson.