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Barclays Premier League

Etihad Stadium (ATT 44,735) 19th December 2009 - Kick off 15:00 Ref: A Marriner

Man City Manchester City vs Sunderland Sunderland

Man City 4

R Santa Cruz (4, 69)
C Tevez (pen 12)
C Bellamy (35)

ft

Sunderland 3

J Mensah (16)
J Henderson (24)
K Jones (62)
M Turner (S/O 90+2)

Festive goal-fest at Eastlands

City prevail in epic battle

By Chris Burton.   Last Updated: 19/12/09 5:33pm

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Tevez: Spot on for City

Tevez: Spot on for City

Manchester City and Sunderland played out a seven-goal thriller on Saturday, with the Blues prevailing 4-3.

Man of the match: Craig Bellamy was a bundle of energy all afternoon and caused countless problems. Goal of the match: The move which led to Bellamy's goal, including Roque Santa Cruz's step-over, was a joy to watch. Save of the match: Marton Fulop did well to get fingertips to a late effort from Stephen Ireland which threatened to sneak under the crossbar. Moment of the match: Michael Turner's red card led to heated exchanges on the touchlines and could mean further action is taken. Talking point: City bounced back from their midweek setback at Spurs, but will it be enough to ease the pressure supposedly mounting on Mark Hughes' shoulders?

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.

Ambitious

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.

Rumours

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 CityTeam StatisticsSunderland
4Goals3
31st Half Goals2
6Shots on Target5
6Shots off Target4
2Blocked Shots1
6Corners4
14Fouls8
5Offsides5
2Yellow Cards2
0Red Cards1
65Passing Success53.9
14Tackles19
71.4Tackles Success57.9
55.7Possession44.3
50.1Territorial Advantage49.9

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Matches

Table

Barclays Premier League

Barclays Premier League
Pos Team P Pts
1 Arsenal 0 0
2 Aston Villa 0 0
3 Burnley 0 0
4 Chelsea 0 0
5 Crystal Palace 0 0
6 Everton 0 0
7 Hull City 0 0
8 Leicester City 0 0
9 Liverpool 0 0
10 Manchester City 0 0
11 Manchester United 0 0
12 Newcastle United 0 0
13 Queens Park Rangers 0 0
14 Southampton 0 0
15 Stoke City 0 0
16 Sunderland 0 0
17 Swansea City 0 0
18 Tottenham Hotspur 0 0
19 West Bromwich Albion 0 0
20 West Ham United 0 0

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