BY MATT WOOSNAM
A dispirited performance saw Crystal Palace dumped out of the EFL Cup as Lewis Wing’s goal just before half-time was enough for Middlesbrough to progress at the Eagles’ expense.
Middlesbrough were the brighter starters of the two sides, with Vicente Guaita called upon to come and claim an early low cross, while George Friend surged forwards only to find his path blocked by the Palace defence.
Grant Leadbitter would blaze over with a wild effort from distance before Alexander Sorloth saw his attempt from the edge of the box blocked by the Middlesbrough defence.
Palace weathered the early pressure and recovered, but the pace and quality of the game was little more than that of a glorified exhibition match.
The Eagles created the best opportunity of the match midway through the first half when Aaron Wan-Bissaka clipped the ball to Sorloth, who let it run for Andros Townsend as they broke through the defensive line, but the winger’s cross was cleared by Sam McQueen who in the process of intercepting, seriously injured his knee and was forced off on a stretcher.
Jeffrey Schlupp sought to capitalise in a defensive error with half an hour played but his cross-cum-shot was comfortably gathered by Dimi Konstantopoulous.
The visitors ought to have gone behind 10 minutes before the break when Martin Braithwaite found George Friend down the left, and he swung in an inviting cross only to see Jordan Hugill fire wide.
Midway through stoppage time in the first-half they did indeed fall behind. Wing found himself in space and unleashed a ferocious shot from 20 yards which sailed past Vicente Guaita to put Middlesbrough 1-0 ahead.
The second half was not too dissimilar to the first, with few opportunities for either side, and the hosts’ keeper still not tested by Palace’s attackers.
George Saville blasted over from distance with 20 minutes remaining but that was Boro’s first shot this side of half-time.
The Eagles created their best opportunity on 75 minutes when substitute Luka Milivojevic played a delightful ball to Wan-Bissaka whose square ball found Max Meyer but the German scuffed his shot when well placed.
It was not until the 87th minute that Palace had their first shot on target, when Townsend cut inside and fired a low fizzing shot which bounced in front of Konstantopoulos but the goalkeeper was able to get down and palm the ball away to ensure that Boro reached the last eight of the EFL Cup.