Boro came into this game under extreme pressure. Having dropped into the verge of the relegation zone, with the last victory a distant memory, to go up against the top of the Premier should have been a daunting prospect. But Boro dug deep and following inspired defending can count themselves as extremely unlucky not to have left the Emirates with all 3 points. As it was the away fans applauded their team of heroes from the field. Pride restored. A Premier team found itself this weekend.
There were some brave selections by Boro boss Aitor Karanka. No place for Stuani or Downing but a welcome first start for exciting Traore and a recall for the gritty Clayton. Indeed there was more a look and mood of the promotion side and it was well received from the fans.
Arsenal flew at us from the start and Boro had to show amazing discipline and concentration to stay with their runners. As Boro battled away our fans roared in support. United we were making a stand.
We weathered a couple of dodgy moments but for the most part there was little to trouble keeper Valdez. Then Boro sprung into a counter attack, playing Arsenal at their own game. Traore powered past his man and only a superb double stop by Cech prevented a goal or the follow up from Negredo.
Arsenal fans gasped in relief but minutes later they had their hearts in their mouths again when Ramirez blasted a free kick goal wards. The shot rebounded off the post.
Traore went close again before half time, Arsenal simply could not live with his pace or body strength. Then when the winger whipped over a cross from the left only a phenomenal save from Cech denied a Ramirez headed goal at the back post.
Arsenal regrouped at half time but again found themselves up against a Boro wall. Clayton and de Roon were firefighting all over in front of an imperious defence.
Then suddenly Valdez had 'a moment' coming flying out of his goal and missing the ball. Fortunately we hacked it away and survived. That moment seemed to be a wake-up call for the former Barca keeper. First he flung himself to his left to make a blinding one-handed save, then he started coming for the ball and really commanding his box. This game could truly be a turning point for Valdez at Boro as well as for the team. Boro continued to threaten on the break. Traore snapping away like a terrier. Negredo a beast in the air with his back to goal. Gaston Ramirez was chopped down in mid-flight when sprinting into the Arsenal half. Traore forced Cech into another great save when he darted through the centre. With the clock ticking down Boro stayed strong. Arsenal fans thought they had scored in the 90th minute. The referee's whistle delighted our fans and we cheered as if we had scored.
Finally after a nail biting finale we secured the point. A big big point. We are not here to be football tourists. We aim to give the big boys something to think about. We intend to stick around at this level. Today at Arsenal we came of age.
Arsenal 0-0 Middlesbrough