London (AFP) – Gaston Ramirez’s sending off cost struggling Middlesbrough dear on Saturday as a 4-0 whipping by Bournemouth left them nine points shy of safety in the Premier League.
While they look set to be joined by north-east neighbours, and rock-bottom Sunderland, in the second tier next term both Hull and Swansea enjoyed victories to keep their hopes alive of staying up.
Hull beat a listless Watford 2-0 despite having Oumar Niasse sent off in the first-half.
Swansea rode their luck a little at home to Stoke with Marko Arnautovic skying a penalty attempt but in the end were deserving of the 2-0 win which left them still third from bottom and two points adrift of Hull.
The day’s other match saw West Ham eke out a tedious 0-0 draw with Everton.
The point should be enough to ensure the Hammers remain in the top flight next season while Everton moved above Arsenal into sixth spot although they have played three games more than the Gunners.
Both sets of fans at the Bournemouth and Middlesbrough clash conducted a minute’s applause for former Boro and England defender Ugo Ehiogu who died on Friday aged 44.
They repeated it in the 44th minute with chants of ‘Ugo’ ringing around the ground.
However, there was precious little else for the visiting fans to make noise about after that.
‘Boro fell to pieces in a disastrous opening 20 minutes, conceding two goals, one to Joshua King in the first minute and when Ramirez was given his marching orders with two bookable offences within minutes of each other the writing was on the wall.
‘Boro are the only side in the top five European leagues to not have won in the league at all in 2017.
Middlesbrough manager Steve Agnew blamed poor defending for their early slip-ups but urged his players to regroup for the crucial game with Sunderland on Wednesday.
“We lost the game in the first period. We defended really poorly for two goals and gave ourselves a difficult afternoon,” he told the BBC.
“We have to go and beat Sunderland on Wednesday and move on from there. It’s been a tough few months, certainly since our last win.”
Hull’s improvement under Marco Silva has been largely down to their home form having dropped just two points since he took over and despite being a man down their spirit since the Portuguese took over shone through.
Niasse was slightly unfortunate to be sent off for his foul on M’Baye Niang but the hosts could thank goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic for a commanding performance in goal to keep them level up to half-time.
His saves were rewarded when Lazar Markovic put the ball into the back of the net on the second time of asking after a neat Hull counter attack just after the hour mark. They added a second through Sam Clucas’ sweet volley.
“I’m really happy,” Silva told Premier League Productions.
“It was not easy. We played with ten players, but our boys were fantastic and they deserved it.”
Watford skipper Troy Deeney was furious with his team-mates’ lacklustre performance.
“I’m not in the business of apologising, but it’s a long journey for our fans and that wasn’t good enough, which is why I went over to apologise to the fans,” said the striker.
“We have a moral obligation to play better.”
Paul Clement, who took over Swansea in early January, admitted if the gap had grown bigger his team’s hopes of survival would have been all but over.
“I thought it was a must-win game and Hull have won and it was absolutely right.
“If the gap had gone to five points with four to play the task would have been very difficult.
“Nothing changed between us and Hull but what has changed is we have got momentum now.”
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