FA Premier League
Wednesday 26 December 2012, 15.00 KO
City: Hart, Nastasic, Kompany (c), K Toure (Barry 87), Zabaleta, Garcia (Lescott 89), Milner, Y Toure, Silva, Aguero, Tevez (Dzeko 73)
Unused: Pantilimon, Rekik, Razak, Sinclair
Booked: Kompany, Y Toure, Nastasic
Referee: Kevin Friend
Man of the Match: Pablo Zabaleta
An early Sunderland free kick came to nothing as Johnson smashed the cross into the City wall, before the visitors came very close to opening the scoring. Kompany rose ahead of the Sunderland back line and flicked his header towards goal, but it smashed off the crossbar and bounced out. Yaya Toure tried to slam the rebound into the net that Mignolet kept out with his foot. A Silva free kick then came to nothing, as he couldn’t keep it down.
As the mid-way point of the first half approached, the hosts were growing into the game, but without really testing Joe Hart. Nastasic was on hand to clear a low cross, before Gardner smashed a free kick well wide. Yet it was City who still seemed the more dangerous – Aguero worked his way into the box to find Silva, who was denied by Mignolet on a one-on-one.
At the other end, Hart responded with a great save of his own. Fletcher had the chance to volley from 25 yards out and it looked destined for the bottom corner until the fingertips of the England international forced it around the post. At the other end, Milner had the chance to shoot from the left side of the box, but his effort was well over the bar.
With ten minutes to go before half time, Adam Johnson played a short pass to Larsson, who smashed a low ball into the box. It looked like it would reach Fletcher inside the six-yard box, but Kompany was on hand to get a boot to the cross first. Tevez was then denied by a great tackle from Rose, as he tried to get a shot away inside the Sunderland area.
Two minutes before the break, Sunderland picked up a free-kick right on the edge of the City area. Komapny was furious to have been booked for the challenge, as Sessegnon ran into him, leaving the City captain with nowhere to go. Larsson’s kick hit the wall and the rebound was skewed well wide. City would have been feeling very aggrieved had it gone in.
The early action of the second half saw the game becoming quite stretched. Silva had a shot blocked seconds before Kompany pulled out a great tackle on Sessegnon and Kolo Toure was up well to head away a Johnson cross. Back at the other end, Yaya Toure headed over from a Silva corner, as both sides looked for the opening goal.
Sunderland then took the lead in controversial circumstances. Zabaleta was fouled by Johnson, but the referee ignored it and played on. Zabaleta was left in a heap as Johnson took the shot on from the right flank and the effort went through Joe Hart and into the net. City were fuming, the goal shouldn’t have stood, but it did.
There were some bizarre refereeing decisions not helping City in the following few minutes. First, Yaya Toure was penalised in winning possession back in the Sunderland area for a tussle with Rose, while Tevez didn’t get the free kick for a similar foul on the edge of the box. Kompany was then given a talking to for another infringement of the same nature and was on his final warning, despite having done little wrong all game.
A scramble in the Sunderland area couldn’t see City force the ball into the net, as Tevez picked out Yaya Toure. The Ivorian’s shot was blocked to Milner, whose effort was also blocked, this time to Zabaleta. The Argentine then powered an effort at goal, but that too hit a Sunderland leg and bounced to safety.
With 70 minutes played, Silva played a great ball to Aguero to slot him through on a one-on-one. His shot, though, was pushed behind by Mignolet. It was a difficult angle, but it should have been the visitors’ equaliser. Milner then hit a free kick over the bar from a good position, before a Dzeko effort from the edge of the box was straight at the Sunderland goalkeeper.
A breakaway from Sunderland with ten minutes to play could have doubled their lead. Sessegnon found space for Campbell to slide the ball into his path and he was through on goal. Hart, though, was off his line to make the block brilliantly, while the City defence cleared the remainder of the danger.
But then it was back to City pressure: Aguero found room for a shot inside the box and it looked like it would have caused Mignolet problems had it not been deflected away, before Rose felled Aguero on the right wing, but Milner’s free kick was nodded away by Fletcher. A flicked header by Aguero was then caught easily by the Sunderland keeper.
It was another defeat for City at Sunderland, but it was a dreadful refereeing decision that cost them the goal.