Sunderland lost 2-1 away to Man City in a game where we did well to withstand the heavy-passing style of Pep Guardiola, but ultimately gifted his side a victory after conceding a first-half penalty, and a late own goal. A goal from Jermain Defoe and the encouraging performance of Lynden Gooch served to entertain the travelling SAFC fans, but unfortunately today wasn’t our day.
‘Confused’ was an appropriate word to describe Sunderland fans going into this game. After a summer of minimal transfer activity, losing a manager, and players trying to engineer their own moves/wage hikes, we found ourselves heading into the new Premier League season with a squad not too dissimilar to the one we finished the last campaign with.
Having said that, we didn’t lose a game in pre-season, and we haven’t bankrupted ourselves by signing shit players for inflated fees. Perhaps above all else, though, is the exciting future that lies ahead under new manager David Moyes. He’s sporting an almighty chip on his shoulder from his time at Man United, but his character-defining determination and grit will ensure he’s out to silence his detractors, and turn Sunderland into the type of side he once had at Everton.
His first real challenge at Sunderland, however, presented itself as a mini injury crisis, forcing him to name a starting XI that had a few of our fans scratching their heads.
Love Kaboul Kone PvA
Borini Defoe Watmore
Donald Love earned a start after signing mid-week with his pal Paddy McNair, in for Billy Jones. O’Shea would be starting in central midfield, after we seen him do something similar against Borussia Dortmund in pre-season. Our starting lineup exposed the weaknesses of our threadbare squad, as without Cattermole, Kirchhoff, Khazri, or arguably M’Vila in the side, we were wondering how SAFC would be able to cope with Pep Guardiola’s Manhester City.
Sunderland started positively, winning a free kick within range, but Patrick van Aanholt could not replicate his Everton heroics and find the net, as stand-in keeper Willy Caballero pawed the ball out wide. Man City grabbed the ball and Raheem Sterling utilised his pace to tie van Aanholt in knots, forcing the Dutch left back to lunge in and concede a penalty.
GOAL – Man City – 4 mins – Aguero
Sergio Aguero was the man tasked with beating Mannone from the spot, and he did so emphatically, driving the ball to Mannone’s right. A real sickener for Sunderland, who came out of the blocks with bravery and ambition.
Lynden Gooch had started very well, and after ten minutes flashed an excellent ball across the box, but the Sunderland attack were already beyond it. This was the second time that Gooch had caused the ‘City defence problems, with the first cross being headed over the bar by Borini. We looked set to rely on our pace up front today, with very little creativity coming from the central areas.
Lamine Kone had sent out a tweet pre-match, praising the travelling Sunderland support and hyping the opening Premier League fixture. It wasn’t well-received, however, as our fans aren’t stupid enough to forget his dirty negotiation tactics earlier in the week. Ultimately, all we want is a sturdy, competent defender, and if he gives us that then I’m sure we can forgive him. Kone showed his quality after shutting down a ‘City attack, carrying the ball up the pitch and playing a speculative pass to Jermain Defoe, who would have got on the end of it if not for lightning-fast defending from the goalkeeper.
The possession stat didn’t flatter us, with ‘City commanding up to 80% of possession for large spells of the game. But then, they weren’t really stretching us, either. They were hanging on to the ball remarkably well, but couldn’t breach our defence. Up the other end of the pitch, a great battle was building between Defoe and John Stones. Defoe mugged Stones off at Goodison Park last season, and I’m sure the eye wateringly expensive defender would be looking to justify his price tag by keeping out one of the most prolific goalscorers in Premier League history.
A great chance for Defoe came after 40 mins, when a Sunderland corner wasn’t deal with effectively by Man City. The ball spun up into the air, and Lamine Kone headed it over the ‘City back line and into the path of Defoe, who had held his onside position well. His shot was saved well by Caballero.
Half-time arrived and Sunderland could go in feeling a little aggrieved to be 1-0 down. They had been frustrated and held off the ball, but they were only one goal to the deficit, and even that was through a reckless penalty. Aside from van Aanholt’s brainfart, we couldn’t really complain about how Sunderland had played.
Sunderland emerged for the second half with no changes made, but you’d suspect that the youngster Lynden Gooch would be the first to eventually make way, after picking up a yellow card in the first half for a hindering pull of the shirt. While the yellow card was a bit naïve, Lynden had an exciting first half and I’m sure Moyes would be pleased with his contribution.
Man City began to dig their claws into the game after 10 minutes or so, and their dynamic midfield did titillate the football hipster in me. Facing a midfield consisting of O’Shea and Rodwell would prove a unique test for them, with the two defensive-minded players looking to suffocate rather than create themselves. Aguero missed a sitter after a misplaced PvA clearance was centred to the South American striker. He came close again soon after when De Bruyne found him in the 18-yard box, but he was handled well by Kaboul.
After 65 minutes, Gooch was replaced by Khazri, while Watmore came off for the debuting Adnan Januzaj. Khazri nearly made an immediate impact by gifting ‘City a goal, selling Love short with a pass and leaving the debutant to deal with the pace of Sterling. Luckily, it came to nothing.
GOAL – Sunderland – 74 mins - Defoe
Janujaz found himself with the ball 25 yards out. He picked out Rodwell to his left, who had a wide option in Borini, or a runner in Defoe. Rodwell played an excellent pass through the legs of the defender and found Defoe, who had no problems in beating the keeper. An excellent well-worked goal that came as a result of hard graft, patience, and concentration. And a few good substitutions as well.
Man City didn’t react to the goal, and persevered with their initial game plan. Slow, steady, and selective in their attacks. It couldn’t be criticised, as we weren’t seeing much of the ball, but then Man City were hardly outclassing us. Outpassing doesn’t equate to outclassing. Sterling was trying his luck against Donald Love, who had looked nervous all match but had done okay. Jermain Defoe came off for Paddy McNair, with Januzaj slotting in up front, Borini also up there to cause problems.
GOAL – Man City – 87 mins – McNair (OG)
Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war. Fuck sake. A cross came in from our left-hand side, with PvA doing little to stop it. There was a goalmouth scramble, with Mannone getting a touch to it, but the ball bounced up, thwacking off Paddy McNair’s heed, and into the net. So so unlucky. Another goal gifted to City.
While we looked as though we’d had the wind taken out of us, we still forced another chance when an aerial ball found McNair at the correct end of the pitch, this time. But the debutant couldn’t trap the ball and Caballero collected. Man City should have had another goal, but fluffed their lines in front of goal after breaching out back line. Mannone came up for a corner at the death, but a poor delivery rendered his efforts redundant, and the full-time whistle was blown.
The neutrals will have tuned in to see a systematic destruction of Sunderland by the genius Pep Guardiola. What they ended up seeing was a shit-load of passing, but very little end product from ‘City, and the exact opposite from us. We attacked in bursts, and held up extremely well given our make-shift starting XI. We can’t feel too disheartened by the defeat, as ultimately, we gifted Man City two goals. They never once beat our defence and converted, while they can’t say the same about us. We lost the game, but we looked good doing it. Can’t complain.
Final score: Man City 2-1 Sunderland
ALS Man of the Match: Lynden Gooch
By Chris Thompson
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