1-0 (Ireland 66)
- Match reports
- 05 November 2007 00:00
- Posted by Tim Oscroft
Pre Match news
City showed three changes to the side that started at the Reebok – Joe Hart returned for Isaksson, Petrov replaced Ball with Garrido shifting back to left back, and Sun Jihai was at right back with Micah Richards’ twisted knee preventing him from playing. Nedum Onuoha had picked up a slight knock in training and was also unavailable.
For the visitors Dickson Etuhu appeared against the club he last played for nearly six years ago.
This Bonfire Night game kicked off with fire-eaters showing off their tricks outside the stadium, and City fans giving Roy Keane a warm welcome inside it.
A quiet opening phase saw the visitors threaten City’s penalty area more than the Blues did theirs, with Collins heading wide after climbing well to meet a corner swung in from the right. Anthony Stokes had the next half-chance on 19 minutes, rising to a Leadbitter cross but putting his header a couple of yards to the left of the goal.
The first moment to get the home fans on their feet came courtesy of, surprise, surprise, that man Elano. The Brazilian jinked into the area on 26 minutes and seemed all set to give us another memorable goal, but his shot through a defender’s legs lacked power and rolled straight into Gordon’s arms.
Elano turned provider two minutes later, laying off to his right into the path of Mpenza, whose shot skewed off to the right of the goal. The Belgian was on target less than 60 seconds afterwards, firing in from the left but again Gordon was well behind it.
The game was livening up, especially with sight of Roy Keane standing in his technical zone, the Black Cats’ boss being serenaded with a cacophony of noise from the home fans.
Stokes took advantage of Sun Jihai’s slip on 35 minutes to release Leadbitter, but he wasted a great chance and shot a long way wide of the post with Hart covering.
Murphy fouled Elano just before half time, and despite being nearer to the centre circle than the penalty area he took aim for an ambitious free kick. Sadly there were no fireworks this time, his rising shot flying harmlessly wide of the right hand post.
Vassell replaced Johnson at half time.
City had the first chance of the second half, Elano feeding Ireland just outside the area but the Irishman’s pass was too far in front of Mpenza to cause Sunderland any alarms.
Hart made his first meaningful save of the night on 52 minutes, after Jones had latched onto a pass just following Ireland getting caught in possession. The Sunderland striker shot across goal first time, but the England Under 21 dived to his left and the scores stayed level.
A swathe of of substitutions on 57 minutes included Rolando Bianchi’s first appearance on home turf since the win over Norwich in September, the Italian striker receiving a great ovation from his supporters.
A lacklustre game needed something special to liven it up, and it was City who provided it on 66 minutes with a lovely move and a great goal to finish it off. Petrov’s crossfield ball found Garrido, who nodded it to Vassell. The striker deceived two defenders to cross to Stephen Ireland, who caught it perfectly first time to volley it back across Gordon into the bottom corner of the net.
The visitors now had to chase the game, with Leadbitter almost stealing in at a cross only to see Dunne backheel the ball away from danger between Etuhu and Jones.
Nosworthy was the night’s first booking on 80 minutes for a crude challenge on Hamann. Michael Ball made his now almost customary appearance as a midfield replacement, for Elano, two minutes later.
Sunderland huffed and puffed as the clock ran down, but City had enough to keep them at arm’s length and see the Blue through to their seventh straight home win, their best start to a season on home soil for over a century.