Middlesbrough 1 West Brom 0: Ayala strikes late as Pulis' men go top

Tony Pulis enjoyed victory over former club West Brom as Daniel Ayala's 91st-minute strike clinched three points for Middlesbrough.

Middlesbrough boss Tony Pulis   -  Getty Images

A controversial late goal from Daniel Ayala moved Middlesbrough back to the top of the Championship as Tony Pulis' men defeated his former club West Brom 1-0 at the Riverside Stadium.

Boro needed only a point to reclaim top spot from Leeds United and looked on course for merely that until Ayala's last-gasp intervention to secure a fourth straight win.

The Teessiders had been on top throughout, yet struggled to really test Sam Johnstone, who made only routine stops either side of a glaring Martin Braithwaite miss.

West Brom passed up its own opportunities and the sides was deadlocked until dismal defending from the visitor - uncharacteristic of Pulis' time at the club - cleared a path for Ayala to strike, although it looked as though the goalscorer may have controlled the ball with his hand before firing home.

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Home defender Aden Flint almost netted a spectacular own goal to open the scoring early on, thundering Harvey Barnes' right-wing delivery against his own crossbar before Boro took control.

Pulis' side struggled to turn its dominance into an opener, though, and Braithwaite squandered the best chance of the first half as he hacked over from close range.

Dwight Gayle was similarly wasteful when sprinting clear on the break shortly after the restart, the on-loan forward still searching for the clinical form that made him such a match-winner in this division with Newcastle United.

Both teams looked short of ideas in the final half hour, but a foul on Adam Clayton on the left flank allowed Muhamed Besic, making his second Boro debut, to pick out Ayala for his contentious late winner.