Onel Hernandez’s brilliant second-half strike helped strengthen Norwich City’s position at the top of the Championship table with a fine win at Middlesbrough.

Boro wasted numerous opportunities to clear the ball before Hernandez, having shaped to curl the ball across goal, whipped a superb shot in at the near post from the edge of the box.

The Canaries are now five points clear of second-placed Leeds United and seven ahead of Sheffield United in third, after the Blades lost at home to Bristol City.

This was a seventh successive victory for Daniel Farke’s side and, with seven matches remaining, they are in pole position to secure promotion back to the Premier League.

Their next three matches – at home to Queens Park Rangers and Reading, and away at Wigan Athletic – all see Norwich come up against teams near the bottom of the table and a nine-point haul would leave them on the brink of going up.

Middlesbrough had the better of the general play before the break and Daniel Ayala headed against the post at 0-0, but the Canaries’ class told as the game wore on at the Riverside.

Teemu Pukki twice missed chances when through on goal, while Boro goalkeeper Darren Randolph’s stunning reaction save also ensured the Finland striker would not add to his 24 league goals this season.

Hernandez had a decent opportunity to put the game beyond doubt with 15 minutes remaining, but could only send a tame effort straight into the arms of Randolph.

He was nearly made to pay for his miss when Jordan Hugill found himself unmarked at the far post in the 90th minute, but the West Ham United loanee horribly mistimed his jump and the chance went begging.

Middlesbrough’s fourth defeat in a row leaves them outside of the play-off places for the first time since 9 August and facing a huge game against fellow top-six contenders Bristol City on Tuesday.

It is the first time Boro have lost four second-tier games in a row since 2013 and they have won just once at home in the league this year.

Line-ups

Middlesbrough

  • 23Randolph
  • 4AyalaBooked at 33minsSubstituted forDowningat 60′minutesBooked at 66mins
  • 24Flint
  • 20Fry
  • 5ShottonSubstituted forHugillat 87′minutes
  • 8ClaytonSubstituted forBesicat 72′minutes
  • 2MikelBooked at 49mins
  • 3Friend
  • 18Fletcher
  • 16Howson
  • 9Assombalonga

Substitutes

  • 1Konstantopoulos
  • 11Hugill
  • 17McNair
  • 19Downing
  • 22Saville
  • 28Tavernier
  • 37Besic

Norwich

  • 1Krul
  • 37Aarons
  • 6ZimmermannBooked at 48mins
  • 4Godfrey
  • 12Lewis
  • 19TrybullBooked at 57mins
  • 23McLean
  • 17Buendía
  • 18StiepermannBooked at 42minsSubstituted forVrancicat 84′minutes
  • 25HernándezBooked at 54minsSubstituted forKloseat 90+4′minutes
  • 22Pukki

Substitutes

  • 8Vrancic
  • 10Leitner
  • 11Rhodes
  • 15Klose
  • 31Hanley
  • 33McGovern
  • 36Cantwell
Referee:
David Coote
Attendance:
23,795

Match Stats

Home TeamMiddlesbroughAway TeamNorwich
Possession
Home40%
Away60%
Shots
Home17
Away16
Shots on Target
Home6
Away5
Corners
Home4
Away6
Fouls
Home17
Away9

Live Text

Match ends, Middlesbrough 0, Norwich City 1.

Full Time

Second Half ends, Middlesbrough 0, Norwich City 1.

Attempt blocked. John Obi Mikel (Middlesbrough) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.

Hand ball by Mario Vrancic (Norwich City).

Emiliano Buendía (Norwich City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by George Friend (Middlesbrough).

Substitution

Substitution, Norwich City. Timm Klose replaces Onel Hernández.

Ben Godfrey (Norwich City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Jordan Hugill (Middlesbrough).

Attempt blocked. Emiliano Buendía (Norwich City) right footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Onel Hernández with a cross.

Corner, Middlesbrough. Conceded by Tom Trybull.

Attempt blocked. Jordan Hugill (Middlesbrough) left footed shot from very close range is blocked. Assisted by Muhamed Besic.

Substitution

Substitution, Middlesbrough. Jordan Hugill replaces Ryan Shotton.

Corner, Norwich City. Conceded by Aden Flint.

Attempt blocked. Emiliano Buendía (Norwich City) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Jamal Lewis.

Tim Krul (Norwich City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Aden Flint (Middlesbrough).

Corner, Middlesbrough. Conceded by Maximillian Aarons.

Substitution

Substitution, Norwich City. Mario Vrancic replaces Marco Stiepermann.

Delay over. They are ready to continue.

Delay in match Marco Stiepermann (Norwich City) because of an injury.

Attempt missed. Britt Assombalonga (Middlesbrough) right footed shot from outside the box is too high. Assisted by Stewart Downing.

Attempt blocked. Stewart Downing (Middlesbrough) header from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by George Friend with a cross.

Christoph Zimmermann (Norwich City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Britt Assombalonga (Middlesbrough).

Attempt missed. Emiliano Buendía (Norwich City) left footed shot from the centre of the box misses to the left.

Onel Hernández (Norwich City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by John Obi Mikel (Middlesbrough).

Attempt saved. Onel Hernández (Norwich City) right footed shot from the left side of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Emiliano Buendía.

Substitution

Substitution, Middlesbrough. Muhamed Besic replaces Adam Clayton.

Tom Trybull (Norwich City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by John Obi Mikel (Middlesbrough).

Attempt blocked. John Obi Mikel (Middlesbrough) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Ashley Fletcher.

Attempt blocked. Kenny McLean (Norwich City) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Emiliano Buendía.

Booking

Stewart Downing (Middlesbrough) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Maximillian Aarons (Norwich City) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Foul by Stewart Downing (Middlesbrough).

Attempt missed. Kenny McLean (Norwich City) header from the centre of the box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Emiliano Buendía with a cross following a corner.

Corner, Norwich City. Conceded by Stewart Downing.

Attempt missed. Tom Trybull (Norwich City) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the right. Assisted by Marco Stiepermann.

goal

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