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Riverside Stadium (ATT 18,371) 9th August 2014 - Kick off 15:00

M'boro Middlesbrough vs Birmingham City Birm'ham

M'boro 2

D Ayala (33)
E Garcia Martinez (66)

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Sky Bet Championship: Kike helps Boro begin season with win over Birmingham

Last Updated: 12/08/14 2:49pm

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Daniel Ayala: Mobbed after scoring Middlesbrough's opener

Daniel Ayala: Mobbed after scoring Middlesbrough's opener

Big-money recruit Kike was on the scoresheet as Middlesbrough kicked off their Sky Bet Championship campaign by easing to a 2-0 victory over Birmingham.

Optimism was high on Teesside with manager Aitor Karanka taking charge of his first full campaign having overseen a fine end to last term.

And the home side did not disappoint as goals from Daniel Ayala and £2.8million striker Kike secured the points.

A new-look Birmingham, bolstered by 14 summer recruits having dramatically avoided relegation on goal difference in May, entered the game brimming with confidence after winning all five of their pre-season fixtures.

But Lee Clark's men were found wanting versus better opposition, their woes best summed up towards the end of the first half when Ayala was left unmarked in the area to head his side into the lead.

It was an advantage Middlesbrough never looked like relinquishing, with Kike capping a fine debut when finishing coolly midway through the second period.

The game began in inauspicious fashion for the hosts as Ben Gibson suffered an injury inside 30 seconds and was forced off.

Kenneth Omeruo, the returning Chelsea loanee deemed too unfit to start following his participation in the World Cup for Nigeria, deputised.

Undeterred, Boro pressed forward with confidence and Lee Tomlin sent a fizzing volley just over the crossbar.

Birmingham were suddenly camped inside their own area, Karanka's men again going close as Tomlin's through-ball fed immediate fan favourite Kike - whose first-time effort just missed the target.

The Blues continued to defend resolutely, although Tomlin again nearly unlocked the door when striking narrowly wide.

Middlesbrough finally got a reward for their efforts in the 33rd minute, however, as Darren Randolph failed to keep out Ayala's powerful header from Grant Leadbitter's corner.

Not content with one, Boro continued to press forward and almost doubled their advantage when Albert Adomah hit straight at the onrushing Randolph just after half-time.

The goalkeeper had to be on high alert again moments later, parrying George Friend's header wide as Birmingham almost paid the price for further dreadful set-piece defending.

Suddenly awakened, the visitors began to put together some attacks of their own.

Yet they looked vulnerable to the counter, too, as the increasingly-influential Kike played through Adomah - who failed to beat Randolph from close range for the second time.

Kike would have no such problems when his chance came, slotting a controlled volley into the corner after Tomlin's initial effort had been blocked.

The Spaniard later missed a golden opportunity to add another following a brilliantly worked set-piece with Tomlin, although few in attendance were holding that against him when the full-time whistle sounded.

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Matches

Table

Sky Bet Championship

Sky Bet Championship
Pos Team P Pts
1 Bournemouth 39 73
2 Watford 39 72
3 Middlesbrough 39 72
4 Norwich City 39 70
5 Derby County 39 67
6 Ipswich Town 39 67
7 Brentford 39 66
8 Wolverhampton Wanderers 39 65
9 Nottingham Forest 39 57
10 Blackburn Rovers 39 54
11 Charlton Athletic 39 54
12 Sheffield Wednesday 39 53
13 Leeds United 39 52
14 Cardiff City 39 51
15 Birmingham City 38 47
16 Brighton and Hove Albion 39 45
17 Bolton Wanderers 39 45
18 Huddersfield Town 39 44
19 Reading 38 44
20 Fulham 39 43
21 Rotherham United 39 40
22 Wigan Athletic 39 35
23 Millwall 39 33
24 Blackpool 39 23

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