Somehow Mido, a man who did not start, who did not score a goal and who did not contribute too much in his 13 minutes on the pitch, came to dominate the aftermath of a match which set a strange tone anyway, as the losers arguably departed as satisfied as the victors. The latter's manager, Gareth Southgate, said: "I'm not embarrassed by the result, but I feel for Tony [Pulis].
"I feel for Tony because if I was him I wouldn't think my players could have given any more. He must be feeling a similar emotion to the one we felt at Liverpool last week."
Mido had put Boro ahead at Anfield – before their hosts scored two very late goals to win – and had scored three goals in three games before Saturday. But the Egyptian was left on the bench here and watched in frustration as Stoke, reduced to 10 men following Amdy Faye's red card for a two-footed lunge at Mohamed Shawky on 36 minutes, tackled their way to a 71st-minute equaliser – a Justin Hoyte own goal. Stewart Downing missed a penalty along the way and Tuncay Sanli missed a sitter. The fans chanted for Mido.
But Afonso Alves, Boro's record signing and the scorer of a brilliant free-kick goal, stayed on. So too did Tuncay, who would justify that decision with a coolly taken winner with five minutes to go. The two men picked ahead of Mido scored.
Mido did get on, for Alves, but once the final whistle blew, he was off. This disappointed sponsors and guests who were waiting for him.
"I had to fill in for someone who didn't do the hospitality," Southgate said, explaining his lateness.
Once it became clear who this was, Southgate said: "He's a very emotional lad and he wants to play. He obviously feels that, having scored three goals in three games, he deserves the right to start.
"He'll get his opportunity to start very soon. He's made his case and his attitude has been excellent. He tries very hard to disguise his feelings. But we love him to bits, he makes things happen on the field and you have to accept that all the characters in your team are very different."
Mido cost £5.8m when he joined from Tottenham Hotspur a year ago. Much of his time since has been spent in the treatment room. Some at the Riverside might say that he needs to knuckle down.
If Pulis is still in the Premier League this time next year, moody strikers will be the sort of managerial problem he will like to have. On Saturday, his selfless forwards ran their legs off. His team played decent football. Their fans supported them relentlessly. Faye apart, Stoke offered a lesson in discipline.
Goals: Alves (37) 1-0; Hoyte og (71) 1-1; Tuncay (85) 2-1.
Middlesbrough (4-4-2) Turnbull; Hoyte (Taylor, 72) Huth, Wheater, Pogatetz; Aliadière, O'Neil, Shawky (Digard, 61) Downing; Tuncay, Alves (Mido, 77). Substitutes not used: Steele (gk), Riggott, Emnes, Johnson.
Stoke City (4-4-2) Sorensen; Griffin, Cort, Abdoulaye Faye, Dickinson (Wilkinson, 68); Lawrence, Olofinjana, Amdy Faye, Delap; Fuller (Sidibe, 75) Kitson (Cresswell, 83). Substitutes not used: Simonsen (gk), Shawcross, Whelan, Diao.
Booked: Middlesbrough O'Neil, Huth; Stoke Fuller, Wilkinson, Lawrence.
Sent off: Amdy Faye (36).
Referee: M Dean (Wirral).
Man of the match: Sorensen
Attendance: 27,627.Reuse content