There were vacant looks and ambivalent shrugs when Marco Silva was named Hull City’s manager, but they do not stop singing about him in Europe’s Capital of Culture these days.
Hull was not an obvious destination for that grand title, just as Silva was not the obvious choice to replace Mike Phelan in January, but both have done wonders for this gritty northern city. When Silva arrived in England, it was assumed he was nothing more than another economic migrant from Europe; unknown, his qualifications unclear. In short, he was lucky to be here.
Hull had got so much wrong since Steve Bruce was forced out in the summer, dismayed by the reluctance to strengthen the squad after he had guided the club back to the Premier League, it was assumed this was just another blunder. Instead, it has proven an inspired choice. Silva has turned a lost cause into a winnable, this win pulling Hull out of the drop zone for the first time since October.
Having achieved phenomenal success in Portugal, with little known Estoril and won silverware at both Sporting Lisbon and Olympiacos, Silva has been better than even his CV suggested. Hull will be desperate to keep him, whatever decision they are in next season, but they only gave the 39-year-old a six-month contract and it could end up being a mistake.
“It was really important for us to get the three points, it’s the second win in a row and it was a very good performance,” said Silva. “It’s probably the best game since I came here – we created so many chances in the first half. Now we must sort out our away form.”
Hull had to come from behind after Alvaro Negredo had given Middlesbrough the lead, stretching to guide Adama Traore’s cross into the top corner. It was Boro’s first away goal of 2017 and only their 21st in the league this season.
Their defence, though, has been their biggest strength, yet it disintegrated here. With Ben Gibson, just a week after he had trained with the England squad, delivering his worst performance of the season and those around him also making mistakes, Hull went on the rampage.
Lazar Markovic scored the first after Gibson’s air-kick, Oumar Niasse got the second after the Boro captain had failed to cut out Abel Hernández’s header. Hernández scored himself moments later from a Kamil Grosicki cross.
Boro pulled a goal back before half-time when Marten de Roon’s close-range header was allowed to stand even though he was off-side.
That might been the spark that ignited a famous comeback, but hope was extinguished when Harry Maguire gave Hull some breathing space, heading in unmarked at the far post from a free-kick.
It was a goal that means Middlesbrough are standing on the relegation trapdoor, with a noose around their necks. Hull, though, think they have found an escape route.
“It’s not like us to concede goals like that and we didn’t get the balance right trying to win the game,” said Boro manager Steve Agnew. “We conceded some really poor goals – we need to win games and fast.”