1-1 (Whitehead 82)
0-1 (Elano pen 79), 1-2 (Vassell 87)
- Match reports
- Sat 12 Apr 2008, 12:00AM
- Posted by Leon Collins
A dull game finally came to life in the last few minutes, with Elano's penalty being cancelled out by a superb strike from Whitehead. But with the hosts pressing for the win to give them Premier League safety, City hit back with three minutes left when Vassell's scuffed shot rolled in. Danny Sturridge went off injured late on, a worry with just a few days to go to the Youth Cup final second leg.
City made one enforced change to the side that started against Chelsea last week, with Jihai Sun replacing the injured Onuoha, Vedran Corluka moving into central defence. The bench had an attacking look, with Geovanni, Vassell and Danny Sturridge all giving Sven options.
Richard Dunne was making his 300th appearance for the Blues.
Sunderland went into a huddle just ahead of kick, and they took the game to City as they looked for the win that would probably secure their Premier League status. Confusion between Hart and Corluka on five minutes gave Jones a half chance but the pair recovered to clear the danger.
Dean Whitehead went into the book for a pull-back on Elano when the Brazilian was breaking over halfway. Phil Bardsley followed him for a fierce challenge on Johnson that saw the young midfielder need treatment three minutes later.
Jones threatened again on 23 minutes, initially shaking off Dunne to race into the box before the skipper and Joe Hart combined to block the former Southampton striker.
City looked composed in midfield without posing many threats in front of goal for a long period, before Dunne threw himself in front of a well-hit Chopra effort on the half hour.
The home fans were incensed by Mike Riley stopping the game twice in quick succession just afterwards, Hart and Corluka colliding with Jones and Richardson respectively. The keeper needed treatment but the Wearsiders felt he had made a meal of the incident, but thankfully the England Under 21 international shook it off. Sunderland were happier a minute later when Gelson Fernandes was booked for a late challenge on Jones.
The Black Cats had the first good chance after the break, Whitehead wasting an opportunity after cutting back inside Petrov, only to sky the ball a along way over the bar.
With the stalemate continuing, Danny Sturridge came on to replace Stephen Ireland with 58 minutes on the clock.
Goalmouth incidents were few and far between, but Michael Johnson had the sniff of a chance with 20 minutes left. For a moment he looked to be in with a chance of shooting after a deflection fell towards him, but Collins made a last-ditch tackle and the home side cleared.
But just as we looked to be heading for a goalless draw, Danny Sturridge went down in the area after Nosworthy clipped his left foot, and Mike Riley pointed to the spot. Worryingly, young Danny looked hurt with the Youth Cup final second leg looming and he needed treatment in the area before Elano strolled up and planted the ball home.
Sturridge continued and eventually went to the floor, but with the game carrying on Sunderland equalised! Reid crossed from the left and Dean Whitehead volleyed the ball in first time to send the home fans wild.
Vassell replaced the injured Sturridge, and seconds later City should have been back in the lead. Corluka headed a corner down to Elano, who put the ball over with the goal at his mercy.
And the crazy spell continued on 87 when City DID regain the lead! Benjani looked to have been fouled but Elano rolled the ball to Darius Vassell, whose scuffed shot had enough on it to creep over the line!
We should have gone further ahead in the 90th minute, Gordon parried Petrov’s free kick into Benjani’s path, but the striker put it straight back at the keeper.
Joe Hart kept it at 2-1 in stoppage time, racing out to deny Edwards after the sub had nipped into the box.
Stay at 2-1 it did, the home fans were shocked and still disgusted at the penalty, and City’s fans were still, just about, dreaming of Europe.
mcfc.co.uk man of the match: Elano