Festive goal-fest at Eastlands
City prevail in epic battle
By Chris Burton. Last Updated: 19/12/09 5:33pm
Tevez: Spot on for City
Manchester City and Sunderland played out a seven-goal thriller on Saturday, with the Blues prevailing 4-3.
Roque Santa Cruz (two), Carlos Tevez and Craig Bellamy got the goals for the Blues, while John Mensah, Jordan Henderson and Kenwyne Jones were on target for the visitors.
In freezing conditions at Eastlands, it was the home support who had plenty to cheer early on as City burst into a two-goal lead.
It took the Blues only four minutes to break the deadlock, with Santa Cruz tapping into an empty net following good work by Bellamy.
City then made it 2-0 on 12 minutes as Bellamy was felled by Nyron Nosworthy and Tevez drilled home from the spot.
However, Sunderland then suddenly sprang to life and found a route back into the game after 16 minutes when Mensah was left all alone to flick an Andy Reid cross past Shay Given.
The Black Cats were then level after 24 minutes as City failed to clear a corner and Henderson lashed into the roof of the net.
It would be the Blues, though, who entered the interval with their noses in front as Bellamy restored their lead on 35 minutes after Shaun Wright-Phillips had caused all kinds of problems down the right.
Remarkably, Sunderland then levelled again on 63 minutes when Jones met a Henderson centre with a diving header.
Parity lasted only six minutes, though, as Gareth Barry ghosted in behind the Black Cats defence and centred for Santa Cruz to bundle home his second of the afternoon.
Michael Turner saw red for Sunderland late on, after clashing with Barry, to compound a disappointing afternoon for the visitors.
For City's ambitious owners, the opening 45 minutes neatly encapsulated the best and worst of Mark Hughes' time in charge.
Having taken the bold decision to axe underperforming £67.5million pair Robinho and Emmanuel Adebayor, Hughes watched with pride as his team ripped the Black Cats apart.
The fourth minute opener was a dream. From Tevez's precise pass and Bellamy's neat square ball to Santa Cruz's tap-in.
As the latter duo had replaced Robinho and Adebayor it must have given Hughes a particular sense of satisfaction.
City soon had another too. Bellamy again causing problems as he was bundled over by Nosworthy. Tevez drilled home the spot-kick, confirming a massive tick for attack.
Yet it has been apparent for quite some time that City's problems are at the back.
There was a partial excuse for Sunderland's first given Micah Richards had just gone down with an injury that ultimately hastened his exit.
Yet that did not excuse Kolo Toure's complete failure to pick up Mensah, who climbed unmarked to steer home Reid's curling right-wing cross from six yards.
It was far too easy for a side aiming to force their way into the top four.
Worse was to follow as Henderson caused the Blues difficulties they could not deal with.
That Hughes was sufficiently confident about Toure's abilities to make him captain above Barry only made matters worse as the Ivorian failed to make any contact with an attempted clearance of Mensah's prodded ball across the box.
Henderson crashed home the shot, effectively scrawling a great big cross next to City's defence. Up above, Khaldoon al-Mubarak must have been pondering all this.
Yet, with the rumours about Roberto Mancini so strong it seems the decision has already been made.
That would be harsh on Hughes on a day when Liverpool's problems appear to be far worse.
However, this is a harsh world, even if the hosts were ahead again at the break thanks to Bellamy.
One of the undoubted success stories of the Hughes' regime, the Welshman supplied a brilliant curling finish to the far corner when Santa Cruz - making only his second start following his summer arrival from Blackburn - allowed Shaun Wright-Phillips' low cross to roll across the box.
That City were not able to build on their advantage was no fault of Bellamy's.
The Welsh firebrand has reserved the best football of his career for Hughes' management, with City and Blackburn, and will be among those genuinely saddened if what appears inevitable does come to pass.
It was inevitable Sunderland would equalise given what City's season has become.
Henderson was left to cut through three City defenders without any of them following his run.
He collected Nosworthy's short pass in open space inside the box and crossed for Kenwyne Jones, who got ahead of Vincent Kompany at the near post to head home.
Kevin Keegan was the manager who vowed to change City, then gave up, claiming there was something unusual in the club's DNA.
So it was totally in keeping what that mad stereotype that Santa Cruz knocked home a fourth after Barry had sent Zabaleta's angled cross bouncing into the six-yard area.Sunderland defender Michael Turner was sent off in stoppage-time for catching Barry with a stray elbow. But the real story was being written high above the action in the City boardroom.
|Manchester City||Team Statistics||Sunderland|
|3||1st Half Goals||2|
|6||Shots on Target||5|
|6||Shots off Target||4|
Barclays Premier League
|11||West Ham United||37||47|
|13||West Bromwich Albion||37||44|
|20||Queens Park Rangers||37||30|