Victor Valdes pulled-off a string of superb saves as Premier League strugglers Middlesbrough held in-form Everton to a hard-fought 0-0 draw at the Riverside Stadium.
Ronald Koeman’s side, who netted six against Bournemouth last time out, came into Saturday’s encounter unbeaten in their previous seven league fixtures, but failed to open up a stubborn Middlesbrough backline.
Aitor Karanka’s side had Valdes to thank when Everton did manage to get through – the former Barcelona goalkeeper at his best to deny Romelu Lukaku and Ademola Lookman either side of half-time.
Middlesbrough could have snatched the points late on, but Joel Robles – determined not to be outdone by his compatriot at the other end – did brilliantly to tip Rudy Gestede’s header over.
1 – Middlesbrough have managed just one win in their last 12 PL games against Everton (D4 L7) – back in October 2006. Neutralised.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 11, 2017
The draw leaves Middlesbrough, who face Crystal Palace in a huge clash at the bottom of the table in their next league fixture, in 15th and just two points above the relegation zone as their search for a first league win since December 17 goes on.
Everton, who stay seventh, started positively and could have gone ahead early on had Tom Davies managed to control Ross Barkley’s low cross.
In a lively, albeit scrappy, opening, Middlesbrough were the next to go close – Cristhian Stuani heading over from close range 16 minutes in.
Middlesbrough grew into the encounter and only a well-timed last-ditch tackle from Seamus Coleman prevented Adama Traore getting in on goal at the end of a fantastic run.
Middlesbrough goalkeeper Valdes was called into action at the other end soon after, making a fine stop to deny Lukaku following Bernardo’s error.
Valdes came to Middlesbrough’s rescue again prior to the interval, rushing out to thwart Lookman from point-blank range – Calum Chambers blocking the youngster’s follow-up.
Lookman did get the better of Valdes moments later as he tried his luck from distance, but his dipping effort whistled just wide of the left-hand upright.
Traore continued to impress for the hosts after the restart, weaving in from the left flank before unleashing a venomous effort that flashed across the face of goal, while Stuani saw a goal-bound header saved by Robles.
Despite Middlesbrough’s strong start to the second-half, Everton got through on the hour-mark, but Lukaku failed to capitalise after latching onto Idrissa Gueye’s throuhball.
Ben Gibson thought he had given Middlesbrough the lead with 25 minutes remaining, but Leighton Baines was well-placed to clear the defender’s header off the line.
Valdes had to be at his best again five minutes later, sticking out a leg to ensure that Lookman’s effort did not nestle into the bottom-left corner.
Middlesbrough rallied in the closing stages and only an instinctive Robles save from Gestede’s powerful header ensured that Everton returned to Merseyside with a point.
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