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Battling Boro make their point against Hammers

GOAL-DEN MOMENT: Christian Stuani after his header gave Boro the lead

PREMIER LEAGUE new boys Middlesbrough made their point in East London as the stifled a nervous West Ham in a 1-1 result at London Stadium today (October 1).

So much was expected of the Hammers this term and to date they have failed to deliver. Boro, enduring a poor spell themselves, were the better team for most of this match and can head back to the North East with their heads held high.

It was not the most auspicious of starts for the hosts. Defender Sam Byram was injured within minutes of the first whistle and was replaced by Alvaro Arbeloa while the first shot of any real note was placed wide by Boro's Viktor Fischer.

There has been a clear disconnect between United's players and fans in their new home but there can be no denying the support given to Slaven Bilic's team in the opening spell of a lacklustre half.

The London Stadium was bathed in early October sunshine and it seemed to lift the spirits of the home fans whose chants of 'Come on you Irons' was intended to give their team a lift. In truth it did not work.

It was a full 20 minutes before a team short of confidence came alive. It was United talisman Dimitri Payet who was to take the game to Boro.

The mercurial Frenchamn had a left foot shot blocked by desperate defenders and then had another chance that, despite failing to hit the target, got the fans off their feet in anticipation.

By way of a response, Boro striker Jordan Rhodes - making his first top flight start of the campaign - placed a header wide as his team enjoyed the majority of possession with 59 per cent of the ball.

The away side were neat and tidy at this stage and had no problem soaking up what little pressure the Hammers exerted.

Towards the end of a poor half United captain Mark Noble, who seems to run all day, saw his right foot curler smack against the woodwork; last term they were going in for the East Enders.

The woodwork strike was typical of Hammers' luck at the moment, which is often the case when you are near the foot of the table.

There was a tad more energy about West Ham at the outset of the second period, there just had to be. But the match regained a familiar pattern with Boro having lots of the ball and Bilic's team only occasionally show what they were made of.

Hammers 'keeper Adrian blocked a Rhodes chance when the striker was in a decent position for Boro. They were to take their next opportunity as from the resultant corner Christian Stuani headed Fischer's corner home from close range in the 52nd minute.

Five minutes later the London Stadium erupted courtesy of a wonder goal by Payet who brought the Hammers level. The little magician beat four men, when starting midway in the Boro half, before firing home from six yards out. The goal lifted the team and the stadium. You may have thought that the home team would have smelt blood and gone for the kill, instead they returned to their old ways and let Boro off the proverbial hook.

There best moments after the leveller saw a Payet free kick bounce off the Boro wall with the follow up shot by Arbeloa going well wide of Victor Valdes' upright.

Boro substitute Gaston Ramirez sent a left foot curler wide when there looked the possibility of a winner but the visitors were inching towards a point.

West Ham left their shooting boots at home today with Simone Zaza and Michail Antonio hitting shots high, wide and not so handsome as the Hammers looked to nail their opponents late on.

Middlesbrough's return to the top flight started promisingly but they hit a bit of bother after three league defeats on the bounce. Today was a triumph for their fighting spirit which they will need in abundance as winter approaches.

As for West Ham, there remains a problem with confidence and sealing victories. Bilic, in his own words, has lots to work on with his players.

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