A Johnson (90+1)
- Matchday centre
- Match reports
- Sun 14 Mar 2010, 6:18PM
- Posted by Tim Oscroft
City looked to be heading for defeat at the Stadium of Light until some local talent threw them a lifeline in their quest to qualify for the Champions League.
Adam Johnson came off the bench against the club he supported as a boy to score a magnificent goal in the 91st minute, but until then it looked to all intents and purposes that a string of fine saves from Sunderland’s Craig Gordon were going to help Sunderland to all three points.
The Scottish international had not been called upon in a first half where an early Kenwyne Jones goal had rocked City back on their heels. Nothing would drop for the Blues before the break, but they looked a completely different proposition after half time. In fact it was Shay Given who was the spectator as his opposite number was forced to make a number of great stops.
Much had changed for both clubs since they last met on Wearside in late August, 2008. Within a few hours of that 3-0 win for City, the club had been taken over by Sheikh Mansour, and the end of the most momentous day in the club’s history ended with Robinho arriving in a record-setting transfer deal.
Winding forward to March 2010, Robinho is on loan in Brazil and the managers of both sides from that last meeting here have since departed the scene. It was apt, then, that Roberto Mancini decided to restore Shaun Wright-Phillips to the side on the same pitch where he had made a two-goal return to City 18 months ago. His inclusion was the only change to the starting eleven that had begun City’s last outing at Stamford Bridge over a fortnight ago, with Adam Johnson moving to the bench. There must have been a twinge of disappointment for the young winger, given his connections to the area, but it also meant that Mancini had plenty of options in reserve, even without the suspended Emmanuel Adebayor.
But returning to the theme of change, Wright-Phillips, Kompany and Richards were the only City players in the squad for this game involved here in August 2008.
So with Spurs winning in the weekend’s first game, City knew what was required in the chase for fourth place – and conceding an early goal was certainly not in the script. After a cagey opening eight minutes, Steed Malbranque chipped the ball over from the left towards Kenwyne Jones, who rose impressively to head home past a static Shay Given.
The pairing that had set up the goal continued to be the main threats for the Black Cats as they made City look distinctly second-best for much of the first half. A timely block by Richards denied the French pocket-battleship, while the imposing Trinidadian striker caused worries with headers and shots from distance.
The Gareth Barry snap-shot on the half-hour that went just a couple of inches wide was City’s first decent chance of note, and within seconds City were forced into a change of personnel. Wayne Bridge had been struggling with a knee problem and was replaced by Roque Santa Cruz, whose only goals of the league campaign so far had come against Sunderland in that crazy game at CoMS in December.
A poor first half for City was compounded by bookings for Tevez, Richards and Wright-Phillips, all symptomatic of a 45 minutes where they were off the pace. That message seemed to have got through after the break, when they created three chances in quick succession. Santa Cruz spurned the best opening so far four minutes into the second half, his tentative prod saved by Gordon who then pushed away a shot from Wright-Phillips within seconds. He may not have been needed had SWP looked up and found Tevez instead, and just afterwards the Scot was pushing away Bellamy’s shot from the left-hand side.
Sunderland spent big on the highly-rated former Hearts stopper two-and-a-half years ago, and unfortunately for City his qualities kept coming to the fore as they desperately sought an equaliser. Firstly he bravely denied Tevez at a near-post tangle, and then with 10 minutes left he used his feet to deny Bellamy after the Welshman had found a sliver of space in the box. In stoppage time came the best stop of the lot, with his feet again to prevent a deflected Bellamy shot from getting City back on terms.
So, it looked like it was going to be one of ‘those’ days for City until a sublime piece of skill gave the Blues a share of the spoils. Gordon’s save had forced a corner, which came out to Adam Johnson just inside the right corner of the box. In a heartbeat the boyhood Sunderland fan had curled the ball into the top corner of the net for a magnificent goal, and while wanting to celebrate a dramatic equaliser with City’s fans he clearly looked like he did not want to rub it in. His manager went racing down the touchline and was almost level with his team as they celebrated, exhorting them to get back and go for a winner.
It was not to be and City left Wearside with a point that could be vital in a race for Europe that continues to take twists and turns every step of the way.