MANCHESTER -- A classy Aleksander Kolarov free kick in the first half set the tone for a 3-0 dominating win for Manchester City over visiting Sunderland. Further goals from substitute Sergio Aguero and a late strike from James Milner set the seal on the three points and the champions' first clean-sheet of the season.
City's boss Roberto Mancini made several changes after his side was lucky to draw 1-1 against Dortmund in the club's midweek Champions League fixture. The Italian made seven changes to the starting 11, including starting Micah Richards over team captain Vincent Kompany.
The visitors made just one change from their first victory over the season against Wigan last Saturday with Carlos Cueller in for Titus Bramble in the heart of the Black Cats defense.
Cueller didn’t take long to make an impression and it wasn’t one he will remember fondly. In four minutes, the Spaniard loitered too long in possession and only a desperate lunge on Carlos Tevez stopped the Argentinian from having a shot on goal.
Cueller was booked for his troubles and then had to watch City defender Kolarov glide a 25-yard free kick with his left foot over the wall and into the roof of the net.
Sunderland found itself behind for the first time this season but the early setback didn’t seem to break its confidence early. The club is always well-organized under Martin O’Neill and the Black Cats soon gained a foothold with a Stephane Sessegnon volleying just over from the edge of the box.
City was subdued for long periods in the opening period, but the team had the attacking prowess to unlock even the toughest of rearguards. Kolarov was proving an unlikely danger and almost grabbed his second when McClean deflected a Tevez pass into the Serb’s path, but he shot straight at Simon Mignolet.
In-form forward Steven Fletcher had been well marshaled by the City defense, but the Scot, who had scored all Sunderland’s five goals this season, showed his capabilities just after the break with a volley from a tight angle that Richards did well to block.
In the second half, City cranked up the pressure and the subdued Balotelli was just inches away from connecting with a Kolarov cross. It was the Italian’s last action before being replaced by Aguero. It proved to be an inspired switch as within four minutes, City had doubled its lead as the Argentine doubled the lead.
City was now dangerous every time it crossed the halfway line. There is more cut and thrust with Tevez and Aguero in partnership, and the duo combined for Tevez to shoot just narrowly wide.
Tevez then pounced on a loose ball on the edge of the box and after Mignolet had been coaxed to close him down, the Argentine picked out Silva who sent a deft chip that struck the bar.
The home side wrapped up the points in injury time when James Milner's vicious free kick from a tight angle dipped and deceived Mignolet in the Black Cats goal.
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