Manchester City 1 Sunderland 0

Barclay’s English Premiership
Sunday 22 March 2009, 15:00 KO

City: Given, Richards (Garrido 82), Dunne (c), Onuoha, Zabaleta, Elano, Kompany (Gelson 84), de Jong, Wright-Phillips, Robinho, Bojinov (Bellamy 65)
Unused: Hart, Garrido, Berti, Gelson
Goals: Richards (56)
Booked: Bojinov, Gelson, Wright-Phillips
City Man of the Match: Nigel de Jong

After Thursday’s unexpected extra time stay in Denmark, City were hoping for an easier game and a victory against Sunderland, who have proved to be something of a good side for City to play when in need of points. Bridge and Ireland missed out with injuries and Kompany passed a late fitness test.

Bojinov, on his first start since the Manchester derby in 2007, was in the thick of the action after just seven minutes. Elano passed through the Sunderland midfield from a Bojinov pass, but his final ball was too long for Robinho and, seconds later, the Bulgarian jinked the ball into Wright-Phillips, whose lob, unfortunately, fell the wrong side of the post, with most of the stadium already cheering.

On 15 minutes, the visitors lost a man. It looked like Fulop handled outside the area from my seat, but it was George McCartney that was sent off – so it could be for pulling back Wright-Phillips, intentional handball… Take your pick! Bojinov put the resulting free kick just over the bar.

Two minutes later and Sunderland were doing their best to shoot themselves in the foot. Richards broke free in the area and was chopped down by Steed Malbranque and the penalty was given. Everyone expected Elano to take it, but Robinho had it instead and, after a stop-start run up, passed the ball to Fulop’s hands.

A minute later and Robinho was trying to make amends. He dived low to connect to a Wright-Phillips cross, but his glancing header bounced up off the floor and into Fulop’s grateful arms.

On 35 minutes, Wright-Phillips ran at the ten men and the crowd were baying for him to shoot, just like he did against Aalborg. He elected to drive a low cross towards Bojinov, but it was just too far for the Bulgarian to stretch to.

Malbranque was then felled by Dunne on the edge of the box, but Leadbitter smashed the resulting free kick into the wall, before Elano had a go from range, but found only Fulop’s hands.

City started the second half slowly, with Sunderland pressing, but that all ended when Davenport was shown a yellow card for diving, under pressure from Dunne in the box.

Some good work by Bojinov and Richards on the right wing, carved a chance for Wright-Phillips to shoot from just inside the area, but his first time shot was well over the bar, as it looked like City would huff and puff, but not actually blow the house down.

But the goal came a minute later. Bojinov was brought down on the right and Elano floated the resulting free kick into the box. Richards connected and headed past Fulop, with Robinho making sure it was in the net.

And City should have doubled their lead just seconds later, as Richards bombed down the right, before finding Elano in the box. Elano then beat two defenders and just had to roll the ball into the net, but it missed the far post by inches.

With 15 minutes to go, Richards drove a ball into the box, but it was immediately deflected over Fulop and towards Robinho, who looked certain to score, but for a fantastic defensive header from Ferdinand.

Richard Dunne stopped Andy Reid with a cracking tackle soon after, before the away fans wanted a penalty for handball by Richards in the area. But replays showed the ball hit Richards on the back of the head and went out for a corner.

City had de Jong to thank for keeping their lead, when Cisse’s header was acrobatically cleared off the line by the Dutchman from a corner.

City were under a lot of pressure, but were easing it with breakaways. First Bellamy found Elano, who smashed a shot from range, forcing a great save from Fulop. A minute later, Bellamy squared for Robinho, who cut inside, then outside, then back inside, before laying Gelson off, who fired over.

Thirdly, Robinho was played through and was running free on goal. With just the keeper to beat, and Bellamy square, he elected to shoot, but Fulop pushed the ball over the bar.

But, in the end, it didn’t matter, as City collected their sixth consecutive home league win, thanks to Micah Richards’s first goal of the season. It was a good performance, and a game City were in control of for large spells.

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