Middlesbrough 1-1 Stoke City: Entertaining opening-day draw at the Riverside
Xherdan Shaqiri bends a free kick past the wall to equalise for Stoke against Middlesbrough | Photo: Premier League

Middlesbrough returned to the Premier League in satisfactory manner with a one-all draw at home to Stoke City, who finished last season in ninth.

Alvaro Negredo scored early in the first half with his first shot for his new club, but a stunning free kick in the second from Xherdan Shaqiri ensured that the points would be shared.

Gaston Ramirez hit the woodwork twice for the hosts who created the better chances, despite the Potters seeing more of the ball and constantly threatening from set-piece situations.

After seven years away from the top flight, Boro's support were eager to make the most of their return and a sold-out Riverside was bouncing come kick-off.

Their side's performance reflected this early on, with the bulk of the threat coming down the left wing through Stewart Downing and stand-in captain George Friend, who charged his way past the Stoke back-line on a number of occasions.

Negredo bags scrappy debut goal

However, the first goal of the game came when Downing swapped flanks with Albert Adomah. The Ghana international bought himself some space by cutting inside rather than going wide, delivering a deep cross for Ramirez to nod back across goal for Negredo to bundle over the line.

Aitor Karanka celebrates Middlesbrough's opener | Photo: Katie Lunn/Gazette
Aitor Karanka celebrates Middlesbrough's opener | Photo: Katie Lunn/Gazette

Stoke looked to hit straight back but struggled to find any real fluency in the first 45 minutes, but there was trouble for the hosts as summer signing Marten de Roon hobbled off with what looked like a hamstring injury less than 20 minutes into the game.

Giannelli Imbula was hugely impressive for Stoke in midfield, bossing the centre of the pitch in de Roon's absence, but their threat came from the flanks in the shape of Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic, but the latter was greedy on numerous occasions, firing off target when teammates were better placed to shoot.

The home fans must have thought they were 2-0 up close to the end of the first half as Ramirez ghosted between two defenders and shot across Shay Given, but his low drive clipped the outside of the post on its way wide.

Sensational Shaqiri levels the scores

Victor Valdes was called into action early in the second half as a loose backpass from the otherwise impressive Antonio Barragan threatened to put Arnautovic through on goal, but the former Barcelona number one was quick to charge out and clear.

Boro should have had a second on the hour mark as Adomah cut inside from the right, but he was indecisive with Negredo and Downing in the centre and in the end only managed to pick out Phil Bardsley.

It was only another five minutes before the scores were level. Adam Clayton gave away a free kick on the edge of the area and Shaqiri out-thought Valdes, sending him one way and clipping an exquisite shot the other, in off the post in the bottom-right corner.

Shaqiri's goal was Stoke's first from a direct free kick in almost three years | Photo: Premier League
Shaqiri's goal was Stoke's first from a direct free kick in almost three years | Photo: Premier League

Both sides had chances to score a winner in the final minutes, but in the end it was a result which both managers will have been satisfied with.

Aitor Karanka's Middlesbrough looked at home against one of the Premier League's better sides, while Mark Hughes said ahead of the game that a trip to a promoted side on the opening weekend is never an easy proposition.

It is early days, but a solid showing from both sides will have both sets of fans anticipating an exciting season ahead.