Middlesbrough took full advantage of Dan Neil’s first half red card and ran riot after the break to hammer Sunderland 4-0 in the Wear-Tees derby at the Stadium of Light.
Midfielder Neil was sent off for Tony Mowbray’s side deep in first half stoppage time after receiving a second yellow card for dissent, allowing Boro to take complete control.
Former Sunderland youngster Sam Greenwood, who came through the ranks on Wearside before leaving for Arsenal when he was just 16 and later joining Leeds, broke the deadlock on 58 minutes before Matt Crooks added a second goal two minutes later.
The impressive Isaiah Jones scored the third 17 minutes from time before substitute Marcus Forss wrapped up the emphatic victory in the last minute.
After failing to pick up three points in any of the first seven Championship games, Boro – who were widely fancied for promotion before a ball was kicked this season – have now won four league games on the bounce.
Sunderland had won five of their last six games and were first to threaten when Abdoullah Ba fired just over the crossbar inside the first 10 minutes, before Patrick Roberts forced a fine save out of Seny Dieng after a weaving run from the right.
Boro responded well and after Greenwood’s shot was only parried by Anthony Patterson, Josh Coburn hit the outside of the post with the rebound from a tight angle.
The game swung in Boro’s favour deep in first half stoppage time when Neil, who had been booked earlier in the half for a foul on Coburn, was given a second yellow card for dissent. A melee then broke out at half-time after a Coburn foul on Ballard, with Carrick and his coaching team rushing on to the pitch in an effort to calm things down.
Boro had two glorious chances early in the second half as they set about making the most of their numerical advantage. Patterson made a fine save at the feet of Crooks, who looked certain to slot home Jones’ cross from the right. From the resulting corner, Paddy McNair headed over just four yards out.
The goal Boro had threatened arrived 13 minutes after the break. Dael Fry picked out Greenwood inside the box and the 21-year-old lashed beyond Patterson. Just two minutes later the game was all but over as Jones beat Clarke down the right before teeing up Crooks for a tap in.
Jones got the goal he deserved after weaving across the pitch from the right and keeping his cool to slot home with his left foot. And after substitute Latte Lath’s shot was saved by Patterson in the 90th minute, Forss was on hand to score the fourth.