English Premier League
Sunday 1 January 2012, 15.00 KO
City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Lescott, Kolarov (Richards 67), de Jong (Aguero 45), Barry, Y Toure, A Johnson, Nasri (Silva 55), Dzeko
Unused: Pantilimon, Clichy, Savic, Milner
Booked: de Jong
Referee: Kevin Friend
Man of the Match: Adam Johnson
A bursting run from Yaya Toure in the opening minute bought City their first corner, but that set Sunderland on the attack early on. Sessegnon sent Bendtner through on goal from mid-way into the City half. He tried to go around Joe Hart, who was out quickly to narrow the angle, and the England keeper blocked well, with Kolarov able to complete the clearance. McClean then took an effort from the edge of the box, but Hart held on to it. A sloppy pass from Kolarov caused de Jong to have to slide in on Cattermole and he was late, earning a booking after just seven minutes.
A short corner from Adam Johnson found a quick one-two with Nasri and allowed the winger to have a shot from the corner of the box. He didn’t quite catch it properly, though, and it was just over the top of Mignolet’s bar. Yaya Toure managed to get onto a ball into the box from Johnson shortly after, but he miss-kicked when he had the chance to shoot and it wasn’t troubling Mignolet.
A City corner was only half-cleared by the Sunderland defence and Zabaleta was able to find Johnson on the right flank. He worked his way into the box and fizzed a low cross towards Dzeko. His effort was blocked by Mignolet, before Johnson found Nasri free in the box again. The Frenchman’s low drive beat the goalkeeper, but it was cleared off the line, as City looked to take the initiative on the half hour.
A bursting run from Yaya Toure found Dzeko in the box and as the Bosnian looked for the return ball, it was just poked wide by a covering Sunderland defender. The resulting corner fell to Dzeko in the middle and he lashed his volley at goal, but it skimmed the top of the bar, with everybody left standing. A cross from Johnson then caused Mignolet problems, but there was no City player to capitalise on his spill.
Sessegnon did well to hold the ball up against Lescott as the game headed towards first half stoppage time and his lay off to Gardner on the edge of the box was hit first time. It was only just high and wide, but it was enough to worry Hart, who threw himself towards the top left corner of his goal.
The first chance of the second half fell to City and Yaya Toure – an excellent low ball into the box by Kolarov was only poked away by Mignolet’s foot and the Ivorian tried a volley from the edge of the area. He didn’t catch it properly, though, and it bobbled wide. Sessegnon then had the chance to shoot, but it was blocked on its way to Hart’s goal.
A short corner from Johnson to Silva gave the winger another chance to break into the box. Instead, though, he slid the ball across the area to the unmarked Dzeko. His shot, though, was sidefooted over the bar, as Colback closed him down quickly. It was a great chance and should have been the opening goal for the visitors. Aguero, Silva and Dzeko combined to set up a shooting chance for the Argentine, but Mignolet pulled off a great save to deny him.
A silly free kick given away by Kompany on the edge of the City box gave the home side the chance to shoot. Larsson stepped up, but his effort clipped the wall and Kolarov was able to clear. Dzeko picked out Johnson on the break, but Kompany couldn’t do the same to free Aguero down the left flank.
With 63 minutes played, Sunderland should have been in front. A flick on from a throw in fell to Sessegnon and Kompany couldn’t steal the ball away. He ran through on Joe Hart, who spread himself, and the Sunderland man tried a shot with the outside of his foot. It beat the City keeper, but also beat the post and City were off the hook. A deflected Dzeko shot almost fell to Aguero via Mignolet’s gloves, but the Belgian keeper was able to recover.
Dzeko then nodded a free kick wide, before Zabaleta was freed down the left to cross. He found Silva, who, in turn, found Aguero on the edge of the box and the Argentine had to slide to get his shot away. He managed it, but he couldn’t find the target, as City cranked up the pressure once more. Johnson picked out Zabaleta at the back post, but he couldn’t find a shot before the tackle came in.
A lucky bounce almost presented Dzeko with a chance, but he needed support as he broke free from the halfway line. He got none and couldn’t force a shooting opportunity, as he was crowded out by four of the home side’s defenders. A neat move between Silva and Aguero set up Dzeko with ten minutes to play, but he couldn’t get it out of his feet and he skied it over the bar. He then had a header deflected wide, as Silva picked him out at the front post.
With two minutes to play, City could have won the game: Silva picked up the ball on the edge of the box and shot, but it was pushed away by Mignolet. It fell straight to Richards, whose diving header hit the bar and Dzeko couldn’t readjust to get a touch on the rebound. Silva then found the gloves of Mignolet from the edge of the box again, but this time he was able to hold it.
But as the clock ticked to final second of the game, Sunderland won the game. Ji broke through the back line and should have been flagged offside as he went through on a one-on-one with Hart, he took it around the goalkeeper and slotted the ball into the back of the net. It was a bad call from the linesman, but City should have put one of their earlier chances away.