English Premier League
Saturday 31 March 2012, 15.00 KO
City: Hart, Richards (A Johnson 45), Kompany (c), K Toure, Kolarov, de Jong, Y Toure, Silva (Tevez 58), Milner (Pizarro 80), Balotelli, Dzeko
Unused: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Clichy, Barry
Goals: Balotelli (pen 44, 85), Kolarov (86)
Booked: de Jong
Referee: Phil Dowd
Man of the Match: Aleksandar Kolarov
It was a slow start from the home side, who were more than matched by the visitors. Mignolet was called into action to make a block from a Kolarov free kick, before Gardner found the side netting from inside the City box. Chances were at a premium early on.
Dzeko then found Mignolet after a neat move up the pitch from the hosts, before Balotelli nodded over from a corner. But, with City beginning to look like they were getting a foothold into the game, Sunderland found the back of the net: Larsson swept the ball into the corner of Joe Hart’s goal, after good work by Sessegnon.
Mignolet spilled a cross from Kolarov, but City weren’t able to capitalise. In truth, the home side were looking disjointed and couldn’t get going like their previous home record had suggested – but they were offered a get out of jail free card, when Dzeko went down in the area and the referee pointed to the spot. Balotelli stepped up and sent the keeper the wrong way.
But, despite that goal, City went into half time behind. A ball from the right flank was met by Bendtner and his header left Hart with no chance, and the England international was picking the ball out of his net once again. City were causing themselves problems and needed stern words at the break.
Clearly, though, the goal before the break wasn’t the wake-up call that the hosts needed. Ten minutes into the second half, the home side had a mountain to climb as Bendtner crossed to the back post, where Larsson slid the ball over the line. City’s unbeaten run at home was hanging by a thread.
Kolarov whipped a free kick just wide of the post, before Tevez had an effort from the edge of the box that was awkward for Mignolet, but the Belgian keeper held onto the shot. Kolarov thumped another free kick wide of the post from the right flank, before Bendtner fired over from the edge of the box: City were getting shots in, but they were shots-to-nothing, at best.
Adam Johnson won a free kick for City on the right flank and it was touched short to Yaya Toure. His cross was cleared, but Balotelli picked up the rebound on the left wing. Cutting inside, he fired a shot at goal and it beat Mignolet to give the home side hope, with five minutes to play.
Immediately, City pulled the game level. Tevez squared the ball to Kolarov on the edge of the box, as the Argentine was crowded out by the penalty spot and had to retreat. The full back powered his boot through the ball and drove it through the area; it smashed past Mignolet and City were level and it never looked like coming.
Balotelli drove into the box after a neat ball from Yaya Toure sent him through and his effort was deflected behind for a corner. Kolo Toure’s effort was blocked, before his brother won another flag kick for City. Balotelli was found by de Jong, but his pulled back was just behind the support in the six yard box.
With two minutes of stoppage time to play, Yaya Toure wasted a good chance from the edge of the box, after Adam Johnson had cut inside. He skied the effort, with better options square. It summed up City’s afternoon in front of goal. It was a rescue job by City, but they now need favours from elsewhere in the title race.