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16 April 2014
• Etihad Stadium, Manchester
Referee: M. Atkinson
• Attendance: 47046
S. Nasri 88'
C. Wickham 73', 83'
FULL-TIME: Manchester City 2-2 Sunderland. The scoreline does not depict a particularly positive look for either side as late drama at the Etihad ensured the spoils were shared. City knew they had little margin for error in the title race and flew out of the traps, with Fernandinho scoring after just two minutes. Gus Poyet's side refused to lie down, however, and got their just rewards with Connor Wickham's well-taken double in the final 10 minutes. It looked like they were on course for a fifth win in nine over the title-chasing hosts, but Samir Nasri benefited from Vito Mannone's error to make for a tense finale. A winner did not arrive and both sides were forced to lick their wound as City fell six points off the summit with just one game in hand while Sunderland lie the same number away from exiting the drop zone on an eventful night at Eastlands.
90' + 2'
Yellow CardPablo Zabaleta
90' + 2'
We are into four minutes of stoppage time here as Zabaleta clips Wickham near the halfway line and is promptly booked by the referee. Sunderland have a late chance to pump the ball into the area, but Mannone catches his teammate offside from the free kick.
Nasri releases Milner down the left but the England international's cross is wayward and goes straight out of play for a goal kick on the far side, when the move promised so much more.
IT'S IN! CITY HAVE THEIR EQUALISER! Nasri lashes a loose ball in the box towards goal. It should be routine for Mannone, but the Italian spills the shot, and is left clawing in vain as it trickles over the line!
Fernandinho makes way for the hosts and Jack Rodwell comes on in his place. City are struggling to make inroads on the Sunderland goal, though. Can they muster an equaliser?
City rallying themselves for one final go to try and salvage a win from the depths of despair here. Surely they can't lose this, can they?
GOAL! Remarkable scenes at the Etihad as Sunderland take the lead. They have been well worth a lead in this game and they finally have it with just seven minutes remaining as Wickham grabs his second of the contest. A stunning run from Giaccherini committed the City backline and allowed him the time and space to feed Wickham, who drilled home at Hart's near post. Staggering. Could this be the end of City's title challenge?
WHAT A CHANCE! Kolarov dances his way through some statuesque challenges after cutting in from the left and slipped back a low ball to Dzeko, but the Bosnian snatched at the chance and screwed well wide of the near post.
Brown has been magnificent for Sunderland tonight and has looked a man on a mission after his personal disaster at the weekend. His latest action is to get in a crucial block on Jovetic as he looked to unleash a shot on goal.
Jovetic takes aim from just outside the area but sees his shot drift wide of the far post as City's frustrations grow.
City struggling to find any sort of rhythm to their play at the moment and their passing is suffering as a result. What a scoreline this would be for Sunderland who, remember, have won four of their last eight league meetings with the hosts.
GOAL! Against all the odds, Sunderland have pulled level at the Etihad through Wickham! How crucial could this goal prove at either end of the Premier League table? Substitute Giaccherini escapes his marker on the left and sends a teasing cross to the back post where Wickham was left unattended to prod home past Joe Hart. Can City rally in the final 15 minutes or will Sunderland find the winner?
WHAT A SAVE! Hart stands up tall to thwart Colback, who had been threaded through by Johnson's brilliant pass but chose to shoot over a cut-back, which looked the more sensible option on reflection.
Sunderland slowly cranking up the pressure here, are they about to land a fatal blow to City's title hopes?
A flurry of substitutions at the Etihad, with Poyet making two changes. The Uruguayan introduces Emanuele Giaccherini for Larsson and Ignacio Scocco also comes on for the tireless Borini. City, meanwhile, bring on Edin Dzeko for Negredo.
Jovetic attempts an acrobatic effort from Nasri's free-kick, but he miscues and the strike is not about to worry Mannone. City had won the set piece after Alonso unceremoniously hacked down Milner and earned a booking for his troubles.
Yellow CardMarcos Alonso
Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson is snapped in the crowd watching his former side in action against fellow title rivals but it's City who go close to scoring next as substitute Jovetic nutmegs Cattermole brlliantly but his low shot lacks the requisite power to beat Mannone.
Larsson weaves his way past a number of challenges but, after engineering some space just outside the area, he wastes the chance to send in a threatening ball and goes for a speculative chip, which sails high over Hart's crossbar.
Sunderland remain content to let City make the majority of the play before exploiting their deficiencies on the counter attack. Is it a ploy which will bring reward for the spirited visiting side?
Jovetic almost makes an instant impact on proceedings by driving at the heart of the Sunderland defence and slipping a pass out to the left, but it is too far in front of Nasri, who is forced wide and cannot deliver a telling cross.
Aguero's disappointing evening comes to a close as Pellegrini introduces Stevan Jovetic to add a much-needed injection of zest to the City attack. It just didn't quite happen for Aguero this evening, but Pellegrini will undoubtedly be happy with the way his star man is slowly but surely returning to full fitness.
Sunderland survive City's first real penetrative attack of the second period as Aguero breaches the backline but Cattermole gets back well to get some form of a block in and divert the ball partially away from Nasri's reach.
City continue to keep possession neatly in and around the Sunderland penalty area but, without the craft of David Silva, there is precious little in the way of a final pass at present.
Johnson shows tremendous trickery out on the right flank to bamboozle Kolarov but his cross is cleared by the City defence, who remain comfortable despite Sunderland's increased pressure at the start of this second half.
Larsson whips a ball towards the far post but Negredo gets up above his marker to nod away from the Manchester City danger zone.
City get the ball rolling once more and we are back underway for a crucial second half for both sides here at the Etihad Stadium.
Sunderland threw away a slew of opportunities inside the opening 20 minutes or so, and have rarely caused trouble since. City still lead thanks to that early, early Fernandinho goal, but the advantage is a little too narrow for comfort. Pellegrini will want to push for the second goal in the second half.
45' + 1'
That's it for the first half folks.
We're on the cusp of half time and it looks like just the one goal lead for title chasing City. Sunderland and Gus Poyet will be reasonably satisfied with this scoreline so far.
Not a whole lot happening out on the pitch if I'm honest. Nasri takes an uncharacteristically direct route to goal, running at a pair of defenders, but he can't keep the ball at full pace and Sunderland recover.
Aguero attempts to break through the visitors' backline by executing a one-two with Negredo, but the Spanish striker cannot put the right weight on the return pass, and the Argentine fails to bring it under his control.
Sunderland are beginning to hold some possession, keeping the hosts on the back foot. There's not enough in their approach to suggest that Joe Hart will be in trouble any time soon though.
Zabaleta trudges off the field to a warm reception from the home crowd, who have always loved his lion-hearted displays. He'll get patched up on the sidelines while we continue with the game.
Marcos Alonso ventures forward and forces Zabaleta into a brave block which leads to both players receiving treatment. Alonso is up first but Zabaleta appears on first glance to have come off far worse out of the duo.
Yellow CardFabio Borini
Borini enters the book for foul-mouthing the linesman after showing diligence in his defensive work to track back and thwart Pablo Zabaleta, who had advanced down the City right flank.
Wickham v Kompany is fast becoming an intriguing battle in this encounter, but the Belgian comes out on top in the latest duel, after Vergini had looked to release the frontman on goal.
Johnson and Cattermole link up nicely but the latter fails to find a decisive return ball before Brown goes in hard on Aguero, who clutches his shins after the former Manchester United defender's challenge.
City win a corner as a riposte to Sunderland's adventurous attacking ployes but Cattermole wastes an opportunity to hit the hosts on the counter after Aguero's heavy touch. Parity, with City monopolising the ball, is restored.
Johnson looks for a path through the City defence and tries to jink his way through but discovers an uncompromising backline so instead elects to shoot, but his effort is well wide eventually.
City continue to probe in and around the Sunderland area but are unable to get anywhere despite their crisp passing moves, with Kolarov twice conceding possession far too easily.
MISS! Another chance goes begging for the visitors - how many more will they have to squander before netting the leveller? Johnson's threaded pass locates Borini's evasive run and the Italian takes aim, but his radar is slightly out and his arrowed effort veers past the post.
Another set piece wreaks havoc amongst the City rearguard as Demichelis is forced to clear Larsson's wicked centre for a corner on the far side, but Hart claims the subsequent delivery.
Fernandinho brings down Jack Colback in midfield and the constant concession of free-kicks is doing little to help City find their fluency in this opening quarter.
ANOTHER MISS! O'Shea meets Larsson's corner with a firm header but sees his effort fly harmlessly across the face of Hart's goal. Sunderland are certainly causing one or two problems here for the home side.
MISS! Samir Nasri steps onto his favoured right foot and unleashes a powerful drive towards goal which Mannone has to push up into the air where Zabaleta is able to flick back towards Fernandinho, but the goalscorer's volleyed effort flies well over the bar.
Sunderland, despite their early deficit, have settled well in possession and do not look fazed by City's star-studded attack here. Aguero is the latest to be crowded out by good Black Cats defending. Could the visitors come to rue that O'Shea miss though?
WHAT A CHANCE! Martin Demichelis scythes down Connor Wickham and presents Sunderland with a free-kick in a promising area. Johnson's delivery is expert, but somehow John O'Shea manages to nod wide. A huge let-off for the hosts, whose marking was extremely slack.
BLUNDER! Joe Hart is fortunate to get away with a lax clearance which lands straight at the feet of former City winger Adam Johnson, but his first touch is poor and he is unable to punish Hart for his gaffe. Kolarov immediately charges downfield but his cross, intended for Aguero, is too close to Mannone.
GOAL! Manchester City have the lead after just two minutes here as Fernandinho fires home to alleviate any pressure on Pellegrini's side. Lee Cattermole is caught in possession by a sprightly Aguero, whose sliderule pass is left by Negredo for the Brazilian, who rifles past Vito Mannone at the near post.
Sunderland get the ball rolling and we are underway at the Etihad.
Sunderland continue to have the best of the early exchanges, with Wickham nipping away from Zabaleta before Johnson earns his side a corner after wriggling clear inside the area.
Each of those four Sunderland victories ended in the same 1-0 scoreline, but the less encouraging news is that City have not lost consecutive Premier League games since October 2010. We are now just moments away from kick-off.
Here's something that will hearten the Black Cats faithful, however.... Manchester City have won just two of their last eight Premier League meetings with Sunderland (D2, L4).
The damaging defeat to the Toffees leaves Sunderland some seven points adrift of safety at the bottom of the Premier League and, despite their two games in hand on their fellow relegation rivals, they still face trips to Chelsea and Manchester United as well as the daunting task in front of them tonight.
That 3-1 win represented City's first tangible success under Pellegrini as they won their first silverware; anything less than a win this evening could ensure the Capital One Cup is the only trophy they get their hands on this season.
If Pellegrini could have hand-picked a match for his side to bounce back from such a crushing blow, it is safe to assume Sunderland would probably have been his first pick. The Black Cats have picked up just one point from their last six league games since City beat them in the Capital One Cup final at Wembley in March.
Sunderland were left crestfallen at the Stadium of Light on Saturday as Wes Brown's costly late own-goal secured a vital win for Everton and pushed Sunderland further down the Premier League trap door. Santiago Vergini, much maligned since his January arrival comes in this evening, as does Sebastian Larsson for Phil Bardsley and Ki Sung-Yueng respectively.
Pellegrini drafts in Aleksandar Kolarov, Javi Garcia, James Milner, impressive in the defeat to Liverpool, Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo. Out go Gael Clichy, groin injury victim Yaya Toure, Jesus Navas, Edin Dzeko and Sunday's star man David Silva, who has been struggling with an ankle problem, as City desperately look to get back to winning ways.
Sunderland substitutes: Ustari, Altidore, Ba, Giaccherini, Scocco, Mavrias, Agnew.
Sunderland: Mannone; Vergini, O'Shea, Brown, Alonso; Cattermole, Larsson, Colback; Johnson, Wickham, Borini.
Manchester City substitutes: Pantilimon, Richards, Lescott, Dzeko, Rodwell, Clichy, Jovetic.
Here is the team news in full, starting with Manchester City: Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Kolarov; Garcia, Fernandinho; Milner, Aguero, Nasri; Negredo.
The team news is in and it makes for particularly intriguing reading from a Manchester City perspective, with Manuel Pellegrini making five changes to the side that lost so dramatically in a 3-2 defeat at Anfield on Sunday. His managerial counterpart Gus Poyet, meanwhile, makes just two alterations to his side after their devastating 1-0 defeat at home to Everton at the weekend.
Good evening and welcome to this LIVE commentary of this must-win clash for both sides, as Manchester City take on Sunderland at the Etihad Stadium. My name is Tom Marshall-Bailey and I will be bringing you the latest developments from Eastlands.
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