Sunday, 1 April 2012

City vs Sunderland: Match Report

City slip up again as points are shared at the Etihad

By Aaron Leggott

Photo: Alex Livesey/Getty Images Europe
It was Sunderland's turn to plant a blow in City's now faint title hopes, despite the Blues staging another late comeback at the Etihad Stadium thanks to goals from Mario Balotelli and Aleksandar Kolarov.

Sunderland started the game brightly, and the Black Cats threatened the home side in the first five minutes with James McClean and Craig Gardner testing Joe Hart in the City goal.

And whilst City had chances of their own through Edin Dzeko and Balotelli, it was the visitors who took advantage of their bright start through a Sebastian Larsson goal on the half hour mark.

City started the match in a lackluster fashion, and you had a feeling that Sunderland were in the mood after Everton's demolition of the Black Cats on Tuesday night.

Like in the reverse fixture at the Stadium of Light, it was Stephane Sessegnon who was the stand-out performer for the North east outfit. His movement was exquisite throughout the match, and this was highlighted with his involvement in all three of Sunderland's goals.

The first came along after the Beninese international surged forward at the City defence, before finding an unmarked Larsson on the edge of the box. It was criminal defending from City, especially with Larsson being unmarked, and the Swede had no trouble in guiding the ball into the bottom corner.

The worrying aspect of City's play currently is that there seems to be a lack of passion in the players' body language, and it is definitely transferring itself into the stands at home games. It seems to take a goal from the opposition to wake them up, and this was indeed the case again yesterday.

Kolarov, who should be transformed into a winger, came close, as did Yaya Toure, but it took the genius of Edin Dzeko to help create a chance for City to get back into the game.

As half time was starting to approach, Dzeko weaved his way past two Sunderland defenders before being fouled by Gardner as he drifted past the midfielder. It was a silly challenge to make, and whilst Gardner's joined in with the ex-Birmingham man's protests, it was the correct decision by referee Phil Dowd. 

Up stepped Balotelli, who was to make no mistake from the spot as he wrong footed Simon Mignolet to level the score. 

With everyone expecting City to push on and finally get a grip of the game, it was Sunderland who re-discovered their vigour from the early stages, and were able to regain an unlikely lead just before the half time whistle. 

Once again, City were made to pay for their defensive errors, and were too slow in stopping Sessegnon's cross meeting Nicklas Bendtner. The Dane took up a routine position in the box and was able to climb above both Micah Richards and Vincent Kompany, heading the ball across goal and putting Sunderland 2-1 ahead.

The Black Cats were the first team since December 2010 to enter the away dressing room at half time in the lead, and were good value for it after an emphatic first half performance, similar to the one in December 2010 by Everton. 

Mancini was understandably furious with his team, and decided to bring on Adam Johnson for Richards at the break, which led to James Milner filling the right back position. 

Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images Europe
Johnson didn't help matters at all though, and City's day went from bad to worse as they were caught once again by Sunderland's dangerous counter attack.

Sessegnon was once again involved in the attack as he robbed Yaya Toure of the ball before setting Bendtner away. The Dane was supported by Larsson, who did brilliantly to get on the end of Bendtner's low ball across goal which eluded Kolo Toure and extended the visitor's advantage to two goals. 

The Blues were desperate with their title hopes hanging in the balance, and decided to bring on David Pizarro and Carlos Tevez to try and salvage something.

But not before even more drama occurred, as Balotelli didn't help his claims to stay in the City side after he needlessly squared up to Kolarov when the Serbian rejected the Italian's demands to take a free kick. Both of them had to be split up, and it created a rather embarrassing picture of current circumstances at the home of the FA Cup holders.

But once again, we showed our fighting spirit to get back into the game. With ten minutes to go, the superb Matt Kilgallon was replaced by Sotirios Krygiakos and that changed the whole scenario of the game.

Balotelli, seemingly galvanised after his bust-up with Kolarov, reduced the deficit with five minutes to spare as he cut in onto his right foot before smartly putting the ball past Mignolet. And it was Kolarov who rounded up the comeback just 69 seconds later as he drilled in a volley from outside the area. 

Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images Europe
City pushed on to find a winner, but were unable to get what they were looking for. A draw was probably a fair result in a match which ended City's unbelievable winning streak at home, whilst also handing the initiative to United, who can go five points clear at the top of the table with victory at Ewood Park on Monday.

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