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Man City 1 – 0 Sunderland

Result: Man City 10 Sunderland

Man City moved up into tenth place in the Premier League table following a comfortable victory over a disappointing Sunderland side. The visitors felt aggrieved at the red card awarded to defender George McCartney, meaning they had to play for the majority of the game with ten men, and although the Blues missed a penalty, courtesy of Robinho, a Micah Richards header in the second half decided the outcome.

The Black Cats now lie in fourteenth place, just three points off the relegation zone, and following this uninspiring defeat, must now be nervously looking over their shoulder towards fierce rivals Newcastle. Their next game is away to West Ham, whilst City have a difficult task as they visit high-flying Arsenal.

Richard Dunne battles with Kenwyne ‘Slight Patches of Ginger in my Hair’ Jones

Team News

Blues boss Mark Hughes, missing regular left-back Wayne Bridge, who was hamstrung by a hamstring, moved Argentinean defender/midfielder/striker Pablo Zabaleta into yet another unfamiliar role, this time on the left of the back four, a damning indictment of Javier Garrido. Devoid of the services of the industrious, instrumental and indefatigable Irish midfielder Stephen Ireland, Hughes plumpted for Elano in the attacking midfield role, just behind lone striker Valeri Bojinov, who made his first start for City since August 2007, following a pair of horrendous injuries. ‘Nifty Nige’ de Jong returned to his holding midfield role, while Craig Bellamy was named on the bench after recovering from his knee injury.

For the visitors, Anton Ferdinand returned after injury, but former Manchester United and quite unbelievably, England, midfielder Kieron Richardson was suspended. Israeli international Tal Ben-Haim was ineligible for this game, having joined the Wearside club from the Blues on-loan in January. Up-front, boss Ricky Sbragia, who, no offence intended (but clearly there is offence), doesn’t look quite right, opted for Kenwyne Jones over French striker Djibril Cissé.

Who or what does Ricky Sbragia look like? Answers at the bottom please

City Line-Up

                                           Given

Richards             Dunne                     Onuoha             Zabaleta

                          de Jong                   Kompany

SWP                                    Elano                                Robinho

                                          Bojinov

Subs: Hart, Garrido, BERTI, Fer******, Etuhu, Evans, Bellamy

Report

Even before the game, their was an air of expectancy as the City faithful awaited a sixth consecutive home victory. The Blues started out of the blocks as if they meant business, with Bojinov at the fore of every good move. Firstly the Bulgarian set Elano through the middle, but his pass to find fellow Brazilian Robinho was slightly overhit and the trouble passed. City wasted a gilt-edged opportunity after ten minutes when SWP, played through by the most majestic of passes from Bojinov, lifted a lob from 25 yards agonisingly wide of Martin Fulop’s post.

On fifteen minutes, the game erupted into controversy as referee Steven Tanner reduced the visitors to ten men with the sending off of Northern Ireland full-back George McCartney for a ‘challenge’ on SWP.  A perfectly weighted slide pass by the impressive Elano set the tricky winger bearing down on goal, and as he was just about to lob Fulop, McCartney cruelly tugged the shirt of SWP, halting him in his tracks. After lengthy consultation with assistant referee Mo Matadar, Tanner decided to brandish a red card, meaning Sunderland were forced to play for the vast majority of the game with just ten men. The decision has since been overturned by the FA, but this will be of no comfort to the visitors.    

George McCartney
SWP is halted in his tracks by McCartney, leading to a red card for the defender
 

Bojinov hammered the resulting free-kick over the bar, but Sunderland were now under the cosh, and sacrificed the attack-minded Daryl Murphy in favour of centre-back Calum Davenport. More drama and controversy were to follow soon after, when a rampaging and lung-busting run from Micah Richards culminated in an illegal challenge by Steed Malbranque just inside the penalty area. Referee Tanner had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, and despite the likes of Elano, Dunne and SWP on the pitch, all of whom had scored from the spot against Aalborg, the egotistical Robinho, clearly one who believes his own press, demanded that he should be the one to take the penalty. It was a shocker of an effort, with the Brazilian’s attempt at a fancy dilly-dally to fool the ‘keeper went wrong and confused Robinho himself, as Martin ‘I’ve Had Too Much Food So I’m Now …’ Fulop, dived with ease to his left to stop the effort.

The rest of the first-half was relatively dull by comparison, although Elano did try one speculative (to say the least) 40 yard shot which Fulop saved. The visitors rarely threatened and for them, it was a question of whether they could hold on for another 45 minutes.
 
 

Sunderland goalkeeper Marton Fulop saves ...

Fulop dives to his left to save Robinho’s penalty

The second half started much like the first period ended, with City in near-total domination. Black Cats defender Davenport was booked for simulation, diving in the box after a coming together with Richard Dunne. City pressed on the metaphorical accelerator, and moments after SWP blasted a shot over, the Blues took a much deserved lead. The influential Bojinov won a free-kick from the right, and when Elano swung a perfect ball across, Micah Richards leapt, salmon-like, the highest and planted his header in the bottom corner.   

City celebrate Micah Richards' goal
Valeri Bojinov, thinking he is an aeroplane, helps to celebrate Richards’ goal

It should have been two seconds later, when Elano somehow shot wide from inside the six-yard box following some neat work by himself, Richards and Bojinov. The Bulgarian was replaced just after the hour mark by Craig Bellamy and immediately, the Welsh firebrand caused problems with his direct running and harassment of the defenders. For the visitors, Andy ‘Fatter Than Richard Dunne’ Reid and Djibril Cissé replaced Jones and Malbranque as Sbragia decided to change things round a bit.

With Sunderland showing about as much discipline as Ashley Cole on a night out, the game descended into chaos as Tanner booked Leadbitter, Reid and Bardsley for dissent. A superb last-ditch block from Richard Dunne prevented Reid from scoring, but City eased out the game in relative comfort, despite the introduction of Gelson Fer****** from the bench, and the profligacy of Robinho. It was a much needed and deserved three points for the Blues, and they now head into the international break in good shape.

Robinho dives in
What a surprise: Robinho takes a tumble following a tackle

Key Battles

Nedum Onuoha ‘v’ Kenwyne Jones

Jones, despite being up front on his own all afternoon, and with limited support from Malbranque following the red card for McCartney, battled away throughout the match, causing occasional problems for the City backline with his strength and aerial prowess. However, Onuoha was more than equal to any threat, and snuffed out the danger with ease. Winner = Onuoha

Javier Garrido ‘v’ Steed Malbranque

Poor old Javier. With first choice left-back Wayne Bridge injured, the natural replacement was Garrido, but surprisingly, Hughes opted for Pablo Zabaleta in this position. Malbranque looked dangerous at the start of the game, but as soon as he was forced to change position, he had limited effect, and was well marshalled by Micah Richards. No Winner

Craig Bellamy ‘v’ Anton Ferdinand

Not a good week for me on the key battles. Bellamy was consigned to the sustitutes bench, as Hughes clearly had a doubt as to whether the Welshman could play a whole game. Ferdinand played, but was largely disappointing. No Winner

See the previous post on the Manchester City blog for Player Ratings.

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