Barclay’s English Premiership
Sunday 31 August, 2008, 15:00 KO
City: Hart, Corluka, Richards (Ben-Haim 45), Dunne (c), Ball, Hamann, Kompany, Johnson (Gelson 80), Ireland, Wright-Phillips (Elano 85), Jo
Unused: Schmeichel, Garrido, Sturridge, Evans
Goals: Ireland (44), Wright-Phillips (50, 58)
Booked: Richards, Kompany
City Man of the Match: Shaun Wright-Phillips
Crisis? What crisis?
Not so long ago, a defeat to FC Midtjlland and a crazy spell at Villa Park meant that it looked like it was going to be a long hard season. Cue Mark Hughes.
A behind-the-scenes snatch of Vincent Kompany and the return of the prodigal son in Shaun Wright-Phillips, and suddenly, City show what they’re all about. In truth, they were never troubled by a lacklustre Sunderland team, and City won the game at a canter.
Petrov missed out with injury and Elano dropped to the bench in what Mark Hughes envisaged would have been a physical game and it looks as if the two will have their work cut out to get back in the team on this performance.
It was the home side who started the brighter with Phil Bardsley hitting Joe Hart’s left hand post on seven minutes and then, two minutes later, Cisse whipped a cross across the area, missing everyone.
Soon, City were able to get their foot on the ball and play it about, taking control of the game. Kompany had City’s first real effort on goal, smashing his shot into the Sunderland defender, after Jo had held off Chimbonda and Ireland had been able to find the Belgian.
The atmosphere in the ground heated up, thanks, in no small part, to the referee who began to make a series of bad decisions. First, Stephen Ireland was fouled on the edge of the box and got nothing, and, shortly after, Steed Malbranque was felled by Richard Dunne, but play went on.
Kompany was unlucky to go into the book, just after the half hour, and the Belgian had Roy Keane incensed when Grant Leadbitter ran into the City man and play was, rightly, allowed to continue.
A mix-up between Dunne and Hart on 42 minutes could have led to a chance, as Dunne skied it as the City keeper attempted to catch. But the City keeper kept his eye on the ball and was able to punch clear.
City stepped their passing game up and they got their reward for their good play just before half time, as Dietmar Hamann found Michael Johnson on the right wing, and his low cross was cleared only to Stephen Ireland, who slotted home from eight yards.
After the break, it was clear that there was only ever going to be one winner, as City continued where they had left off. Ben-Haim replaced Richards, who had been on the receiving end of a dead leg in a collision with Joe Hart.
Soon, City extended their lead, as Wright-Phillips had a dream second debut. A Dietmar Hamann free-kick was deflected to Jo on the left corner of the box and the Brazilian threaded the ball through the crowd to the right winger and Wright-Phillips found the back of the net.
Eight minutes later, Wright-Phillips latched onto a Michael Ball chipped pass, speeding between two defenders and flicking the ball over the onrushing Craig Gordon. It was three for City, two for Wright-Phillips and, before the hour mark, the game was over.
Vincent Kompany was on the receiving end of a kicking through the game, and the new-blue did well to keep his cool and put in another solid performance. He managed to wriggle his was from the Sunderland midfield and both he and Mark Hughes were bemused as his legs were swiped away, only for the referee to accuse him of diving.
Sunderland had their goalkeeper to thank for keeping the score down, as he was able to change direction quickly to stop a Michael Johnson after a City shot from distance.
David Healy entered the fray for Sunderland and did nothing but get himself booked for a late, rash challenge on City’s Vedran Corluka, and replays suggested he was lucky to stay on the pitch.
City were able to play keep-ball until the end of the game, leaving Sunderland chasing shadows and the Stadium of Light almost empty by the final whistle. Three goals for City, three points for City and an excellent performance to boot.