- Matchday centre
- Match reports
- 26 December 2012 17:10
- Posted by Chris Bailey
City surrendered their unbeaten away record and ground in the title race as Sunderland got the better of them at the Stadium of Light.
It was the second time in succession in the Premier League that Roberto Mancini’s men have lost 1-0 on Wearside.
And it was old boy Adam Johnson who struck the killer blow squeezing a long range shot under Joe Hart eight minutes after the break.
The goal had more than a touch of controversy about it as it appeared that Pablo Zabaleta was fouled in the build-up by Craig Gardner. Referee Friend proved no pal of the champions as he waved play on.
There were chances to produce another late rescue act but Sergio Aguero saw Simon Mingolet save a stinging drive with his legs and defenders were able to get their bodies in the way of other half chances.
City again had lots of possession but were guilty of over-elaboration at times and slipped seven points behind at the top of the table. Chelsea moved to within four points of the Blues with a game in hand.
So often these games are a product of their timing, barely heated up leftovers from the main event the day before; but not this one.
This was a City side supposedly on mission, with a spring in its collective step after the last gasp win over Reading and United’s draw at Swansea gave the Christmas Premier League table a different look.
There were no further injury casualties from the physically and mentally gruelling triumph over a toiling Reading but that didn’t stop changes being made for the trip to a ground where last season – like this one - City dominated play yet came away empty handed.
After a no-nonsense, neat and tidy debut at left back, Dutch teenager Karim Rekik was left out and skipper Vincent Kompany returned. Kolo Toure’s form kept him in the side (at full back) as did that of Javi Garcia. Perhaps the one shock was the resting of Reading goal hero Gareth Barry who was replaced by James Milner.
Indeed the starting eleven took on quite a different look to the one that handed down a 3-0 defeat to Sunderland at the Etihad Stadium back in October with only six of that starting line up making this contest.
This was a different Black Cats side too. This one didn’t want its tummy tickled and instead had its claws out and felt good about itself after a vital on the road win at Southampton, forget the fact that their fans had mocked United followers and team in the minutes following the title winning goal, there was no desire to hand City three easy points in the pursuit of a repeat.
There was a familiar pattern to the match with City dominating and looking silky on the ball but failing to capitalise on possession. Mingolet in the home goal saw his bar rattled by a superb Kompany header and then saved instinctively with his outstretched leg from Yaya Toure.
At the other end Hart denied Fletcher with a fine diving effort after the Scot had unleashed an effort from outside the box.
After starting well the Blues faded as the half time whistle arrived and though not seriously under pressure were the happier to hear the half time whistle.
They were less happy in the 53rd minute when Johnson scored what proved the winner leaving the champions to rue the chances missed in the first half.