Santa Cruz 3mins & 69, Tevez 11, Bellamy 34.
Mensah (15), Henderson (24), Jones (62).
- Matchday centre
- Match reports
- 19 December 2009 17:17
- Posted by Chris Bailey/Tim Oscroft
A hideous, yet strangely compulsive new word recently entered the English language for games such as this.
Bouncebackability as a concept would have had Shakespeare, Chaucer, and Dickens spinning in their respective resting places but for the modern era it does what is says on the tin.
After what was universally – and it has to be said correctly - described as an abject performance at Tottenham on Wednesday night this was the Blues shot at partial redemption; a chance to show another throbbing pre-Christmas crowd at the City of Manchester Stadium that they have not forgotten how to win matches against anyone else but the league leaders.
Imbued more with hope than any great expectation, Sunderland arrived in much the same frame of mind as Burnley, Fulham and Hull had done. To Blues fans with high hopes of a lofty finish they were merely cannon fodder. Why wouldn’t they be given they had lost their last four outings?
Added to that City had historically clearly demonstrated enjoyment playing the Black Cats having have won each of their last eight Premier League encounters, including all three previous meetings on this ground.
Indeed, Sunderland's last win against City was back in December 2000. Added to the fact that there had not been Premier League draw between the two clubs in 10 previous meetings and all was surely set fair for some pre-Yuletide cheer for the home side
Mark Hughes, whose anger was palpable after the White Hart Lane no-show, illustrated his annoyance with his team selection as out went big name signings Emmanuel Adebayor – who will have to wait for his 100th Premier League start - and Robinho and in came Craig Bellamy and Roque Santa Cruz.
Both the last named pair made an instant impact, Bellamy reaching the goal line and pulling the ball back for Santa Cruz to open the scoring in only the third minute. City have now scored in each of their last 17 home league games. It is twelve months since they drew a blank in front of their own fans - a 1-0 defeat to Everton on 13 December 2008.
Eight minutes later it was 2-0 when Bellamy was bundled over in the box and Carlos Tevez stepped up to convert the Blues first penalty of the season. That should have been the platform for an easy win but by the 25th minute Sunderland were level, the home side having again demonstrated its inability to deal with quality balls into the box.
John Mensah halved the deficit thanks to a free header and Jordan Henderson levelled with free shot from inside the box.
It took shell shocked City ten minutes to recover their composure but when they did they turned on the style. Substitute Pablo Zabaleta’s lob into the box was trapped by Shaun Wright-Phillips, back after injury, and his cross was dummied in exaggerated fashion by Santa Cruz leaving Bellamy to bury a shot into the far corner.
Great interplay between Barry and Bellamy after the break allowed Tevez to shoot from long range, bringing a fine save out of Fulop and City were to rue this a few minutes later when lax defending allowed Sunderland to equalise. Henderson ghosted between three blue shirts to cross to Kenwyne Jones, and the rangy striker could hardly fail to bury a header in from close range. As tempers frayed Shay Given was booked for protesting to the referee.
But it is Christmas after all, and it was evident that Santa would be involved again before too long. Seven minutes after Jones' header, a move from right to left saw Barry tap the ball back across the six-yard area right into the path of Roque Santa Cruz, who had the simplest of tasks to put City back into the lead.
More flowing football from City with seven minutes left forced Fulop to tip over Ireland's shot after man-of-the-match Craig Bellamy had laid on a plate for the midfielder. The Welshman left to a deserved ovation just afterwards, replaced by Petrov and the end of the match was then marred by a moment of madness from Michael Turner. The Sunderland number four laid out Gareth Barry with a stray elbow and was, rightly, shown a straight red card. Thankfully the City midfielder was up and about, if a little groggy, and saw out the remainder of another heart stopping game for the Blues.