Middlesbrough knew they were fighting against all the odds to try and avoid the defeat that would send them back into the Championship – and it was a battle they never looked like winning.
They were on the back foot from the first whistle and were simply overwhelmed by a Chelsea side who would not be denied. The Middlesbrough fans, who were stoic throughout, were applauded by Conte after the final whistle.
The feeling will remain that Middlesbrough have simply come and gone without contributing a great deal to this Premier League season. Could they have been bolder in pursuit of survival?
Boro have proved stubborn in defence on many occasions but have been totally undermined by a failure to score goals – and a failure to cure that obvious problem.
Aitor Karanka, the man who brought Middlesbrough up but who left in March as the decline started to accelerate, was backed by chairman Steve Gibson in January but his attacking purchases were never going to provide the answer.
Rudy Gestede arrived from Aston Villa and Patrick Bamford from Chelsea, but neither are of Premier League quality and the price was paid with relegation.
Middlesbrough look to currently have a good squad for the Championship – but this was a horribly tame end to their Premier League ambitions.
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