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West Bromwich Albion
West Ham United
March 31, 2012
• 10:00 AM
• Etihad Stadium, Manchester
Referee: P. Dowd
• Attendance: 47007
M. Balotelli 43', 85'
A. Kolarov 86'
S. Larsson 31', 55'
N. Bendtner 45'+
That's it from me - swing by the site tomorrow morning at I'll be building readers up for the two Premier League clashes in the afternoon: Newcastle United v Liverpool and Spurs v Swansea. Thanks to those of you who have followed from start to finish and kudos to those who dropped by even for a little bit. Follow me on Twitter @Miles_Chambers - any football related questions, queries or thoughts just message them my way.
Back on topic, Sunderland should be proud they got anything from this match - they achieved what no other team has done in the league this season in taking points away from the Blues at the Etihad Stadium, and hopefully that fact will sink in once they've got over their capitulation at the climax.
Final scorelines across the country: Aston Villa 2-4 Chelsea; Everton 2-0 West Brom; Fulham 2-1 Norwich; Man City 3-3 Sunderland; QPR 2-1 Arsenal; Wigan 2-0 Stoke; and Wolves 2-3 Bolton. I'm especially pleased with the Molineux result as I predicted in the overall LIVE coverage this morning that result, which looked absurd at half-time when the score was 0-0. What a stunning win that is for QPR, while Wigan's win moves them level on points with Blackburn. Wolves, on the hand, are now six points adrift of safety and looking dead certs to drop down into the second tier of English football this season.
An exhilirating end and an overall indifferent performance from City. If United beat Blackburn on Monday they will be five points behind Sir Alex Ferguson's men. Realistically, it looks like the third-to-last game of the season - at home to the Red Devils - is going to decide the title race.
90' + 4'
The final whistle blows and the feeling around the Etihad Stadium is immediately deflation as a winner was so badly wanted by the home fans. But surely they cannot be too disappointed with a draw considering the Black Cats were more efficient in attack and were leading by two goals until the final five minutes. The match finishes Manchester City 3-3 Sunderland!
90' + 3'
90' + 3'
Lee Cattermole leaves the field for David Vaughn. City fans desperate for a winning goal for the Blues boo the delay in play that the substitution has brought.
90' + 1'
Four minutes of added time at the Etihad Stadium and four minutes for City to get their 21st home league win a row.
Balotelli is instrumental in so many of these attacks. Mancini will be questioning why he cannot be this inspirational for 90 minutes!
Balotelli strikes from to the left of goal but Bardsley blocks. Sunderland did so well to hang on for 40 minutes but they're falling apart at the seams now.
Astonishing 90 seconds from the hosts. And this game isn't finished: the Blues are rampaging forwards like they're possessed, urged on by an animated Mancini as O'Neill slumps into his seat on the sidelines.
Assist David Pizarro
Goal Aleksandar Kolarov
GOAL!! Aleksandar Kolarov, the best player in a City shirt today for me, strikes a low and hard shot from about 30 yards out which sneaks to the left of a speechless Simon Mignolet and the Blues are back level at 3-3! Unbelievable!
Assist Aleksandar Kolarov
Goal Mario Balotelli
GOAL!! Well, what a tight final five minutes we are in for! Mario Balotelli coolly hold the ball up on the edge of the box, before driving to his right and hammering home a shot from just inside the edge of the box and into the back of the net. Manchester City 2-3 Sunderland!
Bendtner is back to his "couldn't hit a barndoor" best when he smashes Sessegnon's perfectly weighted pass well over Hart's goal.
Kolarov strikes a pacy free-kick just over the bar from the right edge of the Black Cats box. Not long left to create a comeback for the Blues.
Sunderland spend a good minute inside City's half before the onslaught on Martin O'Neill's men's backline continues. James Milner is brought off for David Pizzaro while Matthew Kilgallon is brought off for the Black Cats in place of Sotirios Kyrgiakos.
Tevez strikes a pearl of a shot after cutting inside on the left edge of the box, but it's too straight and Mignolet drops down and smothers to ball into his chest.
It's not just Man City who are having problems against 'lesser' sides: Chelsea have conceded two goals in the space of five minutes to be pulled level at 2-2 with Villa. Arsenal still losing 2-1 to QPR while Norwich have pulled a goal back against Fulham - that match is currently 2-1 to the Cottagers.
City look completely bereft of ideas and inspiration. They are going to need a barnstorming end to the match to get anything from this fixture. Balotelli's taken to arguing with his team-mates, such is the frustration within the Citizens' ranks.
At this rate, Sunderland are set to do the double over City! There can't be many sides in the league who can say that this season. Credit has to go to Martin O'Neill who has turned a side lurking around the relegation zone into a genuine top 10 team.
Tevez and Balotelli attack the back four of Sunderland to no avail. Dzeko, 30 seconds later, manages to have a pop on goal from just inside the Black Cats box but it ricochets off the Bosnian and out of play for a goal-kick to the visitors.
Yaya Toure is the latest City player to maraud along the edge of the box and see his cross blocked by the leg of a Black Cats defender.
I believe this sort of match is known among some betting types as an accumulator breaker. City aren't short of effort but Sunderland don't look like a side that's going to concede three goals in 20 minutes. At this rate, even a draw is a fanciful notion for the Blues.
Carlos Tevez gets applauded by the section of the crowd that's not furious enough to do so. The Argentinian wriggles his way into the Sunderland area before firing a right-footed effort into the right-hand side netting.
Sunderland defender Kilgallon has his goalbound effort blocked by the head of Kolo Toure inside the Man City box. If Sunderland go 4-1 up then expect a walk out en masse at the Blues' ground.
Kolarov takes the free-kick and it dips inches too high and inches too wide for the Russian left-back. It is still Manchester City 1-3 Sunderland, with 25 minutes remaining at the Etihad Stadium.
Larsson is fuming when he successfully tackles Kolarov but is penalised by referee Phil Dowd. Unfortunately for him, if your feet leave the ground (no matter how good the end result) you are giving away a free-kick. 25 yards or so out from goal on the left edge of the box, is where City have it.
Could this be the day we see Manchester City's title campaign fall by the wayside? They will be six points behind Manchester United should the Red Devils beat Blackburn Rovers away from home on Monday night. On the other hand, they've only won twice in their last 11 visits to Ewood Park, so who knows...
Tevez tries to slot in Dzeko in but Sunderland prevent it, McClean with a particularly good block on the edge of the box for the visitors.
nasatyakhadka says: "TEVEZ TEVEZ...FOR FEW CHANCES TO CREATE AND SCORE..ONLY TEVEZ" and right on cue the Argentine comes on for David Silva. Can he impact on the game for the Manchester-based club?
City can kiss goodbye to any hope of getting 21 home top flight wins in a row at home. The Blues need to score a goal every 11 minutes, although Carlos Tevez is about to come on for Mancini's men.
Yellow Card Nigel De Jong
Assist Nicklas Bendtner
Goal Sebastian Larsson
GOAL!! Sunderland go 3-1 up at the Etihad Stadium and it's Larsson who scores his second of the match. A top quality counter attack from the Black Cats but equally awful defending from a side who are supposed to contain world class players. Wonderful running from Bendtner, a classy final through ball to the back post from the winger and Larsson calmly slotted past Joe Hart.
The lack of match updates is simply because City are being prevented from entering the final third by enthusiastic and energetic defensive tactics from the visitors.
Wolves and Wigan go 1-0 up at home to Bolton and Stoke respectively.
Yaya Toure is down and clutching his face after a classic wayward Cattermole elbow. Play is stifled as the Ivorian slowly gets back to his feet and Dowd warns the Black Cats captain of his behaviour for the (roughly) 44th time.
Sayff13 writes on Twitter: "If man city lose this match,they should just forget about the title..." while JLangoya2305 says: "Sunderland should be able to hold of city ! there attack are far more dangerous than city going forward" We shall soon see how events pan out!
Manchester City have finally got the ball under their control and it's Kolarov - City's most threatening man in the first half - who whips a dangerous cross in from the byline on the left wing.
Bendtner and McClean combine well to win a corner early on the latter half for Sunderland.
Right, we're back underways boys and girls. Mancini has brought Richards off - who clashed heads painfully at the end of the first half - and brought Adam Johnson on, with James Milner slotting in at right-back.
lucjei says "I think Man city and Sunderland will draw 2-2" while anthonyd101 says "Dear Sunderland, please beat City, sincerely Australian Manchester United fan. I'm thinking 3-2 Sunderland!"
The scores at half-time in the rest of today's Premier League matches are as follows: Aston Villa 0-1 Chelsea, Everton 1-0 West Brom, Fulham 2-0 Norwich, QPR 1-1 Arsenal, Wigan 0-0 Stoke & Wolves 0-0 Bolton!
For those of you reading this who have Twitter, Tweet me @Miles_Chambers and I'll post some of your thoughts and final score predictions on here!
Phew! All that action tired has exhausted my typing fingers! Who believes Man City will come back from this then? Those who see Sunderland crumbling under the Blues' pressure, may I direct you towards the north east derby game earlier in March, when the Black Cats defended like absolute behemoths for the entirety of the second half. Mancini will certainly need to rouse his men in the team talk or the Citizens could be looking at the possibility of falling away from the title chase!
What a manic end to the half! The half-time whistle has been blown and it's Manchester City 1-2 Sunderland. The Black Cats took a surprise lead with Sebastian Larsson's finessed goal from 20 yards, but when Craig Gardner brought down Edin Dzeko inside the penalty area Mario Balotelli had no qualms levelling the scoreline. Just wehn it looked like the scores would be even at the break, Arsenal loanee Nicklas Bendtner scores his fourth goal in five games to put the visitors in the lead.
45' + 3'
Assist Stéphane Sessegnon
45' + 3'
Goal Nicklas Bendtner
GOAL!! Would you believe it, Sunderland are back in the lead! Nicklas Bendtner rises brilliantly to nod in Sessegnon's cross from the right wing, his header cushioning in the bottom right corner of the Man City net.
45' + 2'
Balotelli hammers a header against the bar but in the melee that ensues Phil Dowd blows his whistle and calls a foul on the goalkeeper, and Sunderland live to fight another day.
Not entirely sure how that came about, but Colback and Dzeko are having handbags on the edge of Sunderland's area. Richards and (I think) Kilgallon are down having clashed heads when competing for the ball.
Penalty To Man City!
Haha, that's amazing. Well Edin Dzeko gives Balotelli a lesson in how to actually get fouled in the area when Craig Gardner sticks out a leg on the left. Balotelli is stepping up...
Penalty Goal Mario Balotelli
GOAL!! Manchester City score!! Mario Balotelli puts away the penalty by sending Mignolet the wrong way and placing the ball into the right half of the goal. City 1-1 Sunderland.
Assist Edin Dzeko
Balotelli's lying down in the penalty area again - honestly, he's going to get booked for diving if he's not careful.
A flurry of half-chances from Man City, with ball firing in from both flanks to no avail. Milner and Dezko are among the half-hearted architects at the Etihad this time.
Yellow Card Craig Gardner
Gardner is too rough when trying to tackle the largely peripheral figure of Yaya Toure. A foul is given and the crowd want to see red, but Dowd rightly uses restraint and yellow cards the former Aston Villa and Birmingham midfielder.
Another minute, another Balotelli penalty claim. This time he goes in to win a header against Sunderland keeper Mignolet and goes down when the shot-stopper reaches over him for the ball. Eventually the Italian is going to get legitimately fouled in the 18-yard box, but it's going to be a case of The Boy Who Cried Wolf if he isn't careful.
Anger spews from the stands as Balotelli goes down on the edge of the Sunderland box. No penalty or foul is given to the Italian however. In fact, repeat viewings show he went down softly under Cattermole's challenge.
Play has slowed down and I'm watching replay after replay after Larsson's goal - it really is a brilliant piece of placement by the former Birmingham City and Arsenal man.
The Black Cats faithful are making most of the noise now at the Blues' ground. It's the City players who are dominating possession now though and Kolarov whips a shot marginally wide of Mignolet's left post from his left flank.
Assist Stéphane Sessegnon
Goal Sebastian Larsson
GOAL!! Sebastian Larsson has taken the cat and thrown it among the proverbial pigeons here at the Etihad Stadium! The right-midfielder is passed the ball from Sessegnon - who had dribbled intricately from the left wing - on the edge of the box, and he places it perfectly in the bottom right corner. Hart didn't have a chance and City are 1-0 down at home to Sunderland!
Sunderland lump the ball up to midfielder Jack Colback who turns to the left and fires two feet wide of the left upright with a low shot on the edge of the box.
Super Mario cannot compete with the platforming heroics of his Italian plumber namesake, and the striker nods his header from five yards way over the woodwork after out-leaping the Sunderland defence.
Silva goes down in the box but he was off balance when he tried to pass the ball and the penalty shouts are correctly ignored. There was a good two-to-three minute passing session there from City - it was a joy to watch but Sunderland will surely be quaking in their boots.
Bardsley has to use his noggin to put Kolarov's cross out for a City corner. Prior to that, Cattermole had be warned for hacking down Silva 40 yards from goal. Sometimes I think the ref would be better just to give the man a booking before the match as it's that inevitable.
Sunderland are pinned in their area now - this is the sort of pressure City fans will be happy to see, although when referee Phil Dowd gives a contentious throw-in in the Black Cats' favour, they react with booing and dissent.
James Milner wins a corner when Lee Cattermole is forced to tackle the England international on the right wing after a neat one-two with Richards.
The counter-attack from Manchester City ends in Mignolet forcing Edin Dzeko's powerfully hit shot over the bar. The former Wolfsburg striker did well to direct that on target from to the right of goal but it was hardly a testing save for the Black Cats keeper.
City fans remain in good voice despite a performance from the Blues that so far does not scream title-challenging material. Nicklas Bendtner fluffs a pass out wide to give the Blues the ball back.
Sunderland are showing a fair amount of enterprise in using the space in the middle and Gardner has the best chance of the match from the excellent possession play. He is slotted in 15 yards from goal but slots his shot into the side netting on Hart's left.
Kolarov sees a probing cross from the left wing headed away before Balotelli is penalised for a high foot in Sunderland's half. Richards is back on the field by the way, seems like he shrugged off his knock.
David Silva almost pounced on the loose ball once Mignolet had spilt the shot but it was cleared quickly enough by the Black Cats defence.
Mario Balotelli is brought down unfairly about 30 yards out on the left half of the pitch. Aleksandar Kolarov, in an uncommon start in place of first choice left-back Gael Clichy, curls the free-kick around the wall with his left foot but Sunderland goalkeeper Simon Mignolet successfully gets low and saves the Serbian's pop at goal.
Looks like said dithering could have been caused by an injury as Richards is stood on the sidelines being expected by a member of City's medical staff.
Kolo Toure puts in a world class tackle to deny Stephane Sessegnon from capitalising on Richards' dithering in the final third. The Sunderland forward will be annoyed with himslef nonetheless as that was an excellent opportunity to put the Blues on the ropes early on.
But now Hart is, coming off his line and claiming a below-par cross from a Sunderland midfielder Craig Gardner. The Black Cats showing a fair bit of threat in these opening five minutes.
James McClean attempts a left-footed volley when the ball drops after a deflected shot from the right wing. Micah Richards has his body placed conveniently in the way and Blues keeper Joe Hart is not forced into a reaction save.
Phil Bardsley, who I'm pretty sure is another Old Trafford alumni, heads behind Mario Balotelli's cross towards the back post from deep. Sunderland survive City's foray into their territory.
We're off at the Etihad Stadium. Manchester City are calmly passing the ball around at the back as the first minute ticks by.
The players are getting psyched in the tunnels, as is tradition. AND THEY'RE OUT! Predictably, the tens of thousands of supporters at Manchester City's stadium cheer their team onto the field of play. Hands are shaken, legs are stretched - ladies and gentlemen, we will have a match at our feet very soon.
Everton-West Brom, QPR-Arsenal, Fulham-Norwich, Aston Villa-Chelsea, Wigan-Stoke & Wolves-Bolton are the other Premier League matches going down today. Stick with me in here and I'll persevere to bring you all the goals from those games in between the action at the Etihad. Just five minutes until we get underway now!
If the Black Cats do the seemingly impossible and beat Manchester City away from home today then they will leapfrog Liverpool into seventh. A draw could see them stay in eighth or drop down the table should Everton beat West Brom in their 3 o'clock fixture.
Top stat courtesy of GoalUK chief editor Sam Lyon: "If MCFC win today they will equal Liverpool's all-time top flight record of 21 home wins in a row, set in 1972." The Reds really are losing records thick and fast!
Martin O'Neill is forced to field a second-rate defence in Manchester, with former Manchester United stars Wes Brown and John O'Shea unavailable through injury, likewise with Titus Bramble. Another former Red Devil - Kieran Richardson - has returned to full fitness and makes the bench.
Let's not forget that Sunderland could have a say on how the match turns out. Manchester City have won their last 20 league matches at the Etihad Stadium but the Black Cats were able to beat the Blues 1-0 on New Years Day with a late, late goal from substitute Ji Dong-Won. The South Korean is on the bench again - who thinks lightning can strike twice this Saturday afternoon?
#AgueroCluedo, #AgueroInjuryFail & countless other hashtags were created in honour of Sergio Aguero's mystery injury to his ankle, which Man City boss Roberto Mancini described as "stupid" on Friday. Cue mass interest from tabloids and broadsheets alike as reporters harassed Citizens sources to find out the truth. Irrelevant of what actually happened, the former Atletico Madrid striker will not be featuring today which means Mario Balotelli, Edin Dzeko, James Milner and David Silva will be relied upon in attack. I can't be the only one who has noticed there is no Samir Nasri in the squad today. Maybe he's picked up a mystery injury too!
No Carlos Tevez in the starting line-up, the eagle-eyed and observant among you will have realised. The Argentine ace will surely be brought on in the second half should City be struggling to score as they were at Stoke City last weekend.
Vincent Kompany returns after three weeks sat on the sidelines and he will hope to help Manchester City to their first clean sheet since March 3 when they beat Bolton Wanderers 2-0 at home (which was also the last time the Belgian centre-back completed a match for the Blues). If they win against Martin O'Neill's men today then they will go top of the table.
Sunderland: Mignolet; Bardsley, Turner, Kilgallon, Cattermole; Larsson, Gardner, Colback, McClean, Sessegnon; Bendtner. Subs: Campbell, Richardson, Vaughan, Dong-Won, Meyler, Kyrgiakos, Westwood.
Manchester City: Hart; Richards, Kolo Toure, Kompany (c), Kolarov; De Jong, Yaya Toure; Silva, Balotelli, Milner; Dzeko. Subs: Pantilimon, Clichy, Pizzaro, Barry, Johnson, Tevez, Zabaleta.
Line-ups coming up next boys and girls...
Good afternoon and welcome to Goal.com's play-by-play coverage of Manchester City v Sunderland. The match kicks off in half an hour (15:00 here in the UK) and I, Miles Chambers, will be keeping you entertained until then and beyond.
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