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Match Report: Manchester City 3-3 Sunderland (Sunderland Fan's Perspective)

Monday 2nd April 2012
Sunderland came within a whisker of emulating their Stamford Bridge heroics from last season – denied a double over Manchester City and their first top flight win in Manchester since 1981. City needed the victory to temporarily return to the summit of the Premier League, whilst seventh beckoned for the Black Cats.

Wayne Bridge's ineligibility meant midfielder Jack Colback was a make-shift left back as one of two changes Sunderland made from their mid-week FA Cup implosion. The other, Sotiris Kyrgiakos lost his place to Matt Killgallon who returned to the starting eleven for the first time since January. City made a number of changes, which included the return of the ever-influential Vicent Kompany – that was some consolation to the home support after reports of Sergio Aguero's ‘stupid injury'.

The start promised a lively encounter as both teams tried to get on the front foot; it was however the away side that came up with the first meaningful attack. After failing to release James McClean through on goal moments earlier, Stephane Sessegnon teed up Craig Gardner who could only find the side netting from seven yards. City responded with a sight a goal themselves, Edin Dzeko showed great technique with the outside of his foot to no avail after a sweeping move from City, Simon Mignolet pulled off a decent stop.

This fixture had boasted twelve goals in the last two meetings at the Etihad Stadium, and it was not long before the deadlock was broken – not by who you would have expected. Sluggish defending gave Sebastian Larsson enough time to polish his boots then finish expertly after brilliant wing-play from Sessegnon. The Swede passed his shot perfectly into the bottom corner from just outside the area to give the Wearsider's an unlikely lead.

That was after thirty minutes, but it was another ten before much else of note happened as the home side struggled to breakdown a dogged Sunderland defence. They did though, Phil Dowd pointed to the spot after Dzeko's waltzing run was brought to an abrupt end by Gardner. In hindsight the decision can be described as harsh, with Dzeko ensuring he made contact with Gardner rather than the other way around – but for me it would have been difficult not to give it. Mario Balotelli, as he always does, converted with consummate ease.

Amazingly, that was not the end of things as far as the first half was concerned, and perhaps even more amazingly it was Sunderland who reinstated their lead. A quick free-kick gave Sessegnon the opportunity to drive down the right hand side and punt in a precise cross. The cross reached Nicklas Bendtner, who notched his fourth goal in five Premier League games with a super header leaving the Etihad in stunned silence.

After a poor first half from his side, Roberto Mancini saw fit to change things after the break as Sunderland-born Adam Johnson replaced Micah Richards who picked up a knock earlier in the game.

The change did nothing to shift the balance of power as Sunderland launched a scintillating counter attack to astonishingly double their lead. Sessegnon found himself in acres of space which he duly drove into before picking out the run of Bendtner with a delightful pass. The Dane had time to delay his low cross until just the right moment for Larsson to steer home without breaking his stride. A typical Martin O'Neill goal which even received a nod of approval from Mancini.

City's frustrations were reaching boiling point, as despite starting to take a grip on the game, Balotelli and Aleksandar Kolarov thought it would be professional to argue over who would take the free kick. To be fair on Balotelli – Kolarov had taken every free-kick so far!

It had little impact on the game, but I felt it was worth mentioning for the sheer brilliance of it. Centre back Killgallon thought it would be an apt moment to clone the magic of a certain little Argentinian as his Marseille turn dumbfounded two City defenders, before his audacious attempt at a cross was cleared. What was that all about Matt? He was later substituted for Kyrgiakos as he picked up a slight injury.

After such an epic performance for eighty-five minutes, it was the perfect moment to reaffirm the Sunderland way and totally self-destruct. Bendtner missed a good opportunity moments earlier to put the game to bed, which to be fair should already have been there, fast asleep, dreaming of all the replays it was going to get itself. Sixty-eight seconds of pure madness were to follow and so was the disappearance of two points.

First, Balotelli cut inside from the right showing too much power and pace for Larsson before rifling home to devastating effect. He may possibly be the single most frustrating and all around strange footballer the world has and will ever know – by my oh my he can pull some magic out from nowhere!

The second was considerably more disappointing, as both Michael Turner and Kyrgiakos managed to allow Dzeko to chest a deflected cross to Carlos Tevez, who bundled the ball out for David Pizzaro to set up Kolarov. Larsson was caught ball watching before making a feeble attempt to close down before Kolarov's low drive found the net with Mignolet unsighted. Argh!

It is quite an odd feeling to be bordering on livid after taking a point away against Manchester City. Such was the precise, organised and clinical manner of Sunderland's performance, a stark contrast to the embarrassment that was the FA Cup Quarter Final tie against Everton. City were poor, a measure of that could be seen in the fact I have not mentioned their main playmaker David Silva yet, who did play sixty minutes of today's game.

Man of the match was pretty difficult, Bendtner showed glimpses of the player he always claims he is and Larsson was involved in every goal. So was Sessegnon though, who pips the other two to the accolade for me, tormenting City's midfield and defence at every opportunity whilst boasting an impressive 91% pass completion rate. Colback deserves a mention too, he played excellently out of position.

Unfortunately Everton's win means that we actually lost a place despite putting in probably our best performance this season. Tottenham visit the Stadium of Light next, with our chances of European football now drifting, we really need to win that one. What a game this one was though.

Gary McLaughlin
Sunderland born. Sunderland bred. Maybe a tad Sunderland biased too but nevermind. Love to put fingers to keys.

Total articles: 29

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