Visitors punished with the last kick of the game as Martin O'Neill's Black Cats rise two places following dramatic match at the Stadium of Light
Roberto Mancini’s side tasted similar disappointment to their local rivals and both teams remain on 45 points at the top, while the Black Cats rose above Fulham and Swansea to 13th place.
The opening 45 minutes saw just a handful of chances, with the majority in the Sunderland final third. However, it was the hosts that could have taken the lead inside three minutes had Nicklas Bendtner not taken the ball too far when one-on-one with Joe Hart and timidly poked his shot into the keeper’s chest. Edin Dzeko then had two chances of his own, with the first denied by Simon Mignolet and the second by the woodwork.
City were not so successful in the second half despite dominating their hosts, and Sunderland wasted another superb chance to surprise the league leaders as Stephane Sessegnon’s curling effort from inside the box drifted past the far post. The hosts then took away the spoils at the death with Ji rounding Hart and tapping the ball into an empty net.
Mignolet was making his return for the Black Cats following his broken eye socket and was wearing a protective mask for the duration of the game to prevent any further damage. Meanwhile, Jack Colback and Craig Gardner also got starts, with the two filling the full-back positions in place of the absent duo Kieran Richardson and Phil Bardsley.
Mancini looked to have Tuesday’s clash with Liverpool very much in mind, as the Italian opted to start Sergio Aguero and David Silva on the bench while Mario Balotelli was not amongst his 18-man squad. This meant that Edin Dzeko was handed a start, with Aleksander Kolarov also making a return to the starting XI after not playing since the League Cup win over Arsenal.
Sunderland started the much brighter team as Bendtner was given an early chance after being put through on goal by a defence splitting pass from Sessegnon, but he took too many touches and a hesitant decision to go round Hart ultimately saw the Dane squander his opportunity.
Bendtner’s miss was the only real goalmouth action of the opening 20 minutes, with petty fouls preventing the game from flowing. The visitors that took the initiative in possession, but Sunderland also saw a decent amount of the ball and looked happy to attack City whenever possible.
However, O’Neill’s injury woes in defence looked to be increasing to epidemic levels as Wes Brown was forced to depart from the game on 26 minutes thanks to a groin problem and was replaced by former Leeds United man Matt Kilgallon.
City were then handed their best opportunity of the match, with Dzeko getting on the end of a low ball aimed towards goal, but Mignolet made himself big enough to keep out the toe poke. The Bosnian had a second effort moments later, this time the woodwork saving Sunderland after the striker's half-volley clipped the bar.
The restart saw Mancini introduce Aguero in place of Nigel de Jong to aid solitary striker Dzeko up top.
The Argentine saw his first action in front of goal after Dzeko tapped the ball into his feet inside the Black Cats’ area, but Mignolet was prepared and kept out the substitute’s effort. The hosts would have been angered if Aguero had converted his opportunity, with referee Kevin Friend overlooking a blatant foul on Sessegnon in the build-up.
The Benin midfielder soon had the Sunderland fans on their feet in hope, with the 27-year-old successfully taking on Vincent Kompany in the box but a shot with the outside of the boot dragged the wrong side of the post.
City dominated for much of the remainder of the game, but struggled to conjure much in the way of solid chances. Micah Richards did have one great chance to win the game for the visitors, but his header from close range could only hit the bar.
The defender’s miss was to lead to City’s demise in the end, with Ji finishing off a cunning counterattack by Sunderland by rounding Hart and tapping the ball into an empty net before wheeling off in celebration in front of a rapturous Stadium of Light.
Commentaries, Stats, Player Ratings and much more,
Visit Goal.com Live Scores!