Middlesbrough moved four points clear at the top of the Sky Bet Championship following a 2-0 victory over second placed Derby County at the Riverside Stadium yesterday.
Kike could have granted Boro the lead early on, but the Spaniard forced a quality save out of Lee Grant.
Johnny Russell almost put the Rams ahead up the other end, but Dimi Konstantopoulos produced a fine save down low.
In the second half, Stewart Downing saw a fierce strike from distance fizz just high and wide of the top corner, but then Albert Adomah sent the Boro fans into glee with a cool finish, stuttering before dinking the ball over Scott Carson after some quality link-up play.
The game was finished off from the kick-off, when Derby sloppily gave the ball away, and after some patient counter-attacking play, David Nugent unselfishly teed up George Friend for a simple tap-in.
FootballLeagueWorld writer Harry Smith identifies three things that we learned from this entertaining spectacle…
1) Boro are the class of the division
Derby are by no means pushovers, and Boro boss Aitor Karanka expertly set up his side to dismantle Paul Clement’s side with ease.
They were patient, quick on the break, clinical, and they created chances out of nowhere.
They look a class above the rest of the teams in this division, and Karanka must feel they are set for promotion, especially as they have a game in hand over their rivals.
2) They looked like a solid team
Middlesbrough didn’t just look like a bunch of in-form, talented individuals, but a solid team.
Karanka has clearly installed a strong sense of camaraderie, and new signings Downing and Christian Stuani have fitted in seamlessly.
Friend’s goal epitomised this spirit, with Nugent’s unselfish nature helping Boro to the win.
3) Derby are far from the finished article
For weeks, Rams fans have been looking at their side as one of the only teams that could rival Boro for the title, and thus one almost nailed on for promotion.
Yet Boro’s sheer superiority in terms of quality brought Derby down a peg.
Clement will have to reassess his aims this season, or change up the system.
Boro and Derby fans… what did you think of the game? How good were Boro? Are they nailed on for promotion? Was it just an off day for Derby? Can the Rams secure promotion come May? Let us know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!