Middlesbrough vs Birmingham City match report: Daniel Ayala and Kike goals soothe the pain of injury to Gibson Jnr

Ayala and new signing Kike get Middlesbrough off to a promising start as they earn deserved victory over Birmingham

Riverside Stadium

The first blow of the new season was close to home for Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson. There were just 15 seconds on the clock when big Ben Gibson, nephew of the man who masterminded Middlesbrough’s rise from liquidation to the Uefa Cup final, pulled up in a hamstrung state in the home penalty area.

It was a painful setback for the younger Gibson, who has gained England Under-21 honours as a central defender, but an opportunity for one of Boro’s newboys to make an early season mark. Kenneth Omeruo played 14 games on loan for Middlesbrough last term but has been welcomed back as a new signing.

Omeruo is a Chelsea player but his manager at Stamford Bridge is a friend and former colleague of Middlesbrough’s head coach. Aitor Karanka spent three years as Jose Mourinho’s assistant at Real Madrid.

Five weeks ago Omeruo lined up for Nigeria against France in a Round of 16 tie in Brasilia. On that occasion, the tall willowy 20-year-old finished on the losing side, beaten 2-0 in front of a crowd of 67,882.

Birmingham looked like individuals still getting to know one another. Having seen his side escape relegation courtesy of a 93rd minute equaliser by Paul Caddis on the final day at Bolton, Birmingham manager Lee Clark has overhauled his squad and gave starts to five of his 10 new signings. His new-look team were unable to summon a shot on target.

Omeruo could afford to get back into the swing of things at strolling pace. At the other end of the field, Lee Tomlin made his presence felt, striking up an instantly promising partnership in his attacking support role, behind the debutant Spaniard Enrique Garcia.

Tomlin might be on the portly side for a latter day football pro but the former Rushden and Diamonds player had some sparkle about him as he schemed around on the fringes of the Birmingham penalty area.  He had already despatched a fine warning shot of a volley across the bows before he played in Garcia behind the Birmingham defence with a deftly angled ball.

Garcia, a £2.8m acquisition from Real Murcia known as “Kike”, flashed his shot wide but Middlesbrough had the attacking momentum that carried them into a 33rd minute lead.

Leadbitter swung over a right-wing corner and Daniel Ayala (pictured, centre), Omeruo’s central defensive partner, scored with a close range header. The only surprise thereafter was that it took Middlesbrough until the 66th minute to put the contest effectively out of Birmingham’s reach, the visiting defence failing to clear a left-wing cross from the impressive Adam Reach and Garcia hooking in the loose ball for a debut day goal.

Kike might have finished with a hat-trick but Boro can wait for a greater return in the department that cost them a play-off place last season. “A marathon is a very long and tough race,” cautioned Karanka, who replaced Tony Mowbray last November. “Today is just the first step.”

Still, it was a good day after all for Steve Gibson. On this evidence, it could be a good season for Middlesbrough and their chairman.

Line-ups:

Middlesbrough (4-2-3-1): Mejias; Hines, Ayala, Gibson (Omeruo, 4), Friend; Whitehead, Leadbitter; Adomah (Nsue, 66), Tomlin (Williams, 87), Reach; Garcia.

Birmingham (4-2-3-1): Randolph; Eardley, Hall, Robinson, Grounds; Gleeson, Edgar; Gray, Shinnie (Duffy, 55), Novak; Thomas (Donaldson, 66).

Referee: Graham Salisbury

Man of the match: Tomlin (Middlesbrough)

Match rating: 8/10

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...