Britt Assombalonga has started to pay back his huge price tag with his first goal’s in a Middlesbrough shirt in the 2-0 win over Burton Albion.
Assombalonga arrived as Boro’s record transfer for £15million from Nottingham Forest this summer, and has quickly set about making friends with Riverside crowd with his goals against Nigel Clough’s Albion side.
Burton entered the game amid claims they could offer former sprinter Usain Bolt a trial – and looked every bit a team needing all the help they can get.
Nigel Clough’s men slipped to a third successive defeat to begin their campaign as Assombalonga netted either side of half-time. A bad night was compounded with 12 minutes remaining when substitute Hope Akpan was sent off for a two-footed lunge on Lewis Baker.
Boro boss Gary Monk picked the same XI that overcame Sheffield United 1-0 on Saturday, with Rudy Gestede, Patrick Bamford and Assombalonga interchanging in a fluid 4-3-3.
Burton, who made three alterations to the side that lost 4-1 at Hull, two of which were enforced by injury and suspension, edged the opening exchanges. However, Kyle McFadzean was caught on the ball by Gestede, who freed Assombalonga to slide home from a tight angle.
It should have been 2-0 moments later, Bamford heading Adam Forshaw’s centre wide with the goal gaping. Boro’s front three were suddenly causing Albion all sorts of problems and Gestede was next to threaten when heading straight at Stephen Bywater.
Nigel Clough’s side then offered a reminder of their own threat as Matty Palmer curled narrowly wide from 20 yards.
Assombalonga almost picked up where he left off after half-time, only to side-foot wide when one-on-one with Bywater following a delightful Bamford through-ball.
And Boro were thankful to stay ahead soon after, with Cyrus Christie called upon to deny Palmer from six yards with a sliding challenge.
That appeared to reawaken Boro, who added their second when Assombalonga tapped into an empty net after Bywater had parried Gestede’s effort into his path. The goal appeared to knock the wind out of the sails of Burton, whose night went from bad to worse as Akpan was given his marching orders.
Middlesbrough took their foot off the gas after that, although Baker went close to a third when curling narrowly wide.
The on-loan Chelsea forward then spurned an even better effort, hitting into the side-netting after good work from fellow substitute Adama Traore. However, the misses didn’t matter as Boro cruised to victory.
BRITT ASSOMBALONGA STATS