FA Premier League
Saturday 6 October 2012, 12.45 KO
City: Hart, Zabaleta, Richards, Lescott, Kolarov, Barry, Milner, Y Toure (c), Silva (Rodwell 90), Balotelli (Aguero 57), Tevez (Clichy 86)
Unused: Pantilimon, K Toure, Nasri, Dzeko
Goals: Kolarov (5), Aguero (60), Milner (89)
Referee: Lee Probert
Man of the Match: James Milner
It was a quick start to the game from the home side, who were on top of the visitors from kick off. Tevez headed for the box on the left flank as he beat Cuellar, but he was hacked down by the Sunderland defender and City had a free kick. Kolarov stepped up and whipped the ball into the net at the near post, with Mignolet flapping at thin air. After some nervy performances, an early goal was very welcome.
Sunderland tried to respond with a free kick of their own, but the rebound from the initial effort was fired well over the bar by Sessegnon. But it looked like City would be the side to get the next goal, as Balotelli weaved his way inside onto his right foot from the wing and fired a ferocious effort towards the net. Mignolet was worried, but it was over the bar.
Zabaleta had a shot well saved by the goalkeeper, before Tevez fired a cross-come-shot for the far post, but both Yaya Toure and Mario Balotelli couldn’t stretch enough to get the vital touch to knock it in. Kolarov had a second free kick of the game flick off the wall and over for a corner – the pressure was all from the hosts.
Despite the dominance, though, the second goal just wouldn’t come. Tevez doggedly pressed the Sunderland back line and a series of corners came to nothing for the blues. Barry fired a shot from 20 yards wide of the post, following a Kolarov volley from the edge of the box that almost hit the second tier.
City almost went to sleep from kick off in the second half: Former blue Adam Johnson skipped past Kolarov and his cross needed clearing, before Richards put in a vital block to prevent Fletcher’s shot troubling Joe Hart. At the other end, Yaya Toure stepped inside the challenge in the box and found room to smash an effort at goal, but Mignolet was equal to it, turning it over the bar.
Micah Richards could have marked his return from injury with a goal, as a corner from the right flank found his head. It was blocked, but the rebound fell straight to him and he tried again, this time beating Mignolet, but it was cleared off the line. Kolarov put in a brilliant low cross that almost picked out Balotelli, but the Italian couldn’t quite stretch enough to turn the ball home.
From another corner, Richards again found Mignolet in fantastic form, as his header from Milner’s cross looked destined for the top corner, until the Belgian international got across, saved and held the effort. It was starting to feel like no matter what City did, the ball just wouldn’t go in for the second goal.
But that soon changed with the introduction of Aguero. Three minutes after joining the action, he broke into the box to get on the end of another brilliant Kolarov cross and he smashed the ball past Mignolet, doubling City’s lead.
With 70 minutes on the clock, it was all one-way traffic. Tevez broke down the right flank and tried an effort towards the back post, but it was a ball’s width the wrong side. He then found himself one-on-one with Mignolet and was forced wide by the goalkeeper. He didn’t panic, squaring the ball for Silva – with a pack of Sunderland players between him and the goal and with the goalkeeper off-limits, his only option was to chip it over the top. He did and was unlucky to see it rebound back off the crossbar.
Five minutes later, Richards tried his luck again and again from a Milner corner. It sat up nicely for him to attempt an overhead kick, but he didn’t connect with it as he would have hoped, sending it well over the bar.
But, as the game headed for the final whistle, Sunderland could have pulled a goal back. Gardner fired a shot across goal and Hart moved to make the save. But before he could, it flicked off Lescott and changed direction, leaving the goalkeeper stranded. Luckily for City, though, it bounced behind for a corner.
City sealed the game from another free kick on the stroke of 90 minutes. Kolarov was felled on the left flank and Milner came across to take it. With everybody expecting a cross, the England international smashed an effort at goal and Mignolet couldn’t keep it out, leaving City’s man of the match to have the final say.