The last kick of the game punishes the visitors with the maximum penalty and sees the top of the table still all tied up, whilst the Black Cats rise two places
Roberto Mancini’s outfit tasted similar disappointment to their local rivals and both sides remain on 45 point at the top, whilst 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 third. However, it was the hosts that could have taken the lead inside three minutes if Nicklas Bendtner hadn’t taken the ball too far when one-on-one with Joe Hart and timidly poked his shot into the ‘keeper’s chest. Edin Dzeko 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 domineering over their hosts, whilst Sunderland wasted another superb chance to surprise the league leaders as Stephan Sessegnon’s curling effort from inside the box drifted past the far post. One great chance at the end came to Micha Richards after heading a rebounded effort onto the bar and summed up the visitor’s afternoon. The hosts took away all the spoils at the death with Ji rounding Hart after a successful counter and tapped the ball into the net unpressured and left the City defenders in shock
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 in at the full-back positions for absent duo Kieran Richardson and Phil Bardsley.
Roberto Mancini looked to have Tuesday’s clash with Liverpool very much in mind, as the Italian rested Sergio Aguero and David Silva and had no place Mario Balotelli 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 too may touches and a hesitant decision to go round Hart ultimately saw the Dane squander his opportunity and made a hurried shot into the ‘keeper’s body.
Bendtner’s miss was the only real goal action of the opening 20 minutes, as the game lacked flow largely down to the amount of petty foul committed by the two sides. In terms of time on the ball, it was definitely the visitors that were taking initiative in possession, but Sunderland weren’t being shy either and were seeing a decent amount of the ball and looked happy to attack City whenever possible.
Martin O’Neil’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.
Half-an-hour into the game and City were 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 repel the toe poke. The Bosnian had a second effort moments later, this time the woodwork saving Sunderland after the strikers half-volley clipped the bar and into the stand behind.
The restart saw Roberto Mancini seek for further firepower in his side and so brought on 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 striker’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 during a dash into the box and pushed the ball with the outside of his foot, but the shot didn’t curl enough and bent round 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. Substitute 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 City’s demise in the end, with Ji finishing off a cunning counter attack by Sunderland, rounding Hart and tapping the ball into an empty net before wheeling off in celebration.
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