The Citizens gave their home supporters a Boxing Day treat with a comprehensive victory over one of the League’s strugglers – and it could’ve been a much more comfortable scoreline in truth.
Manchester City got back to winning ways in comprehensive fashion with a 4-1 victory over Sunderland, giving their home supporters a well-earned Boxing Day treat.
A goal apiece from Raheem Sterling, Yaya Touré, Wilfried Bonyand Kevin de Bruyne helped the sky Blues to seal a morale-boosting victory, but another frustrating injury – on Vincent Kompany‘s return to action – understandably put a dampner on proceedings in the final twenty minutes.
It seemed to be a welcome return back to the matchday squad for club captain Vincent Kompany, who, alongside Sergio Agüero andJesús Navas, was amongst the substitutes’ bench for their clash with one of the League’s strugglers.
As for Sunderland, it was a particularly intriguing starting XI from them too. With a 433 formation, Danny Graham, Steven Fletcherand Fabio Borini were chosen as the visitors’ frontline, meaning that both Jermain Defoe and Duncan Watmore – amongst other key players – were surprisingly starting from the bench.
Vito Mannone was opted to start in-between the sticks instead of usual first-choice Costel Pantilimon, although there was no hint of a possible pre-match injury sustained by the latter, which would have influenced Sam Allardyce‘s decision.
A fast-paced start
The hosts started quickly and with intent, and after just six minutes, could have broken the deadlock as well as a penalty in their favour. However, the score stayed goalless with Sunderland struggling to get themselves into the match itself quickly enough in the early exchanges.
Kevin de Bruyne played a defence-splitting through ball toward the path of Raheem Sterling near the far post, but the 21-year-old was unable to latch onto his neatly-weighted pass, with Vito Mannone scrambling to get in position.
Raheem gets his reward
Then, referee Anthony Taylor brandished the game’s first yellow card with seemingly no hesitation. Sterling – and his City teammates – appealed for a penalty after he’d weaved his way in the box and was brought down clumsily by Billy Jones, but the man in the middle felt as though Raheem overexaggerated the contact, and booked him for simulation.
It wasn’t too long though, before the hosts got what they deserved. Sterling himself, ironically, broke the deadlock in the 13th minute with a power header after a teasing ball was fizzed toward his path by de Bruyne from the far side.
A quick-fire double
Four minutes later, the lead was emphatically doubled. Yaya Tourédrove through midfield and, as we’re all used to seeing him do, rifled one home from range into the bottom corner.
The result was virtually sealed though, when Wilfried Bony got himself on the scoresheet. A freekick delivery was swung into the area, and the powerful Ivorian had no trouble flicking goalwards from de Bruyne’s cross, leaving Mannone with no chance despite his diving effort to push the ball to safety.
A three-goal cushion and a lead to protect, it could have easily been more – or less – before the interval. Danny Graham had a golden opportunity to grab one back for Sunderland, but watched on in disbelief as his header from close-range flew inches wide of Joe Hart‘s far post.
Visitors have chances of their own
Steven Fletcher had a promising chance of his own, too, but for a last-ditch defensive intervention to stop the Scotsman in his tracks with a potential one-on-one opportunity on the cards. Fabio Borini tested Hart from close-range, his effort was on-target and would have crept in at the near post if not for the quick reflexes of City’s number-one, who was ultimately unlucky not to keep a clean sheet.
As the half-time whistle blew, City were in the ascendency and knew fully well that they were dominating. Sunderland paid the ultimate price for their slow start to proceedings and despite fashioning some chances of their own, didn’t look particularly convincing defensively.
An interesting second-half
Damage limitation, some might have suggested. As the second-half began, it became clearer that the complexity of the match would be determined by the substitutes warming up on the sidelines.
Sunderland looked increasingly tentative at the back, as though they could make a mistake at any time. Billy Jones was the unfortunate man to help set-up City’s fourth, after his sliding interception bounced up nicely in the path of de Bruyne, who cooly slotted home from close-range inside the area.
Just after the hour mark, a succession of four changes were introduced – two for each side. Lee Cattermole and Jeremain Lenswere brought on for the visitors, whilst Fabian Delph and Vincent Kompany were given a warm round of applause as they entered the fray.
The visitors themselves grabbed a goal, albeit a consolation, courtesy of Fabio Borini. Hart made a great initial block to deny the Italian forward after the ball was unintentionally fizzed into him at pace by substitute Cattermole, but was unable to stop the rebound shortly afterward from nestling into the bottom corner.
David Silva was beginning to prove that game-by-game, his fitness is improving. He, alongside de Bruyne and Sterling, added some creative sparks to City’s attack going forward and Sunderland struggled to get near him at times, simply because you couldn’t predict where he was going next.
His slaloming run forward, beating three players whilst dribbling, epitomised that. Despite two teammates screaming for the ball in space, the Spanish maestro went all the way and curled his effort goalward, only for the ball to swerve narrowly wide of the post. Slightly selfish, yes, but it was a sign that Silva is getting back to his best.
Another blow for Kompany
Less than ten minutes after coming on, the club captain limped off the field, shaking his head in frustration as he suffered what has been reported to be a reoccurence of the calf injury that has given him so much trouble recently. It seemed typical that given all of the side’s defensive troubles, something like this would happen – but no-one had expected it, a real shock to see.
Understandably, the atmosphere began a hushed one for the remainder of the game. Many supporters on social media have already voiced their discontent, and suggested that perhaps, Vincent Kompany is no longer able to compete at the highest level – if he’s having so many persistent injuries.
The timescale of his fresh blow is believed to be around a month, but we are patiently waiting for confirmation. The captain, leader and City legend will be hoping it’s nothing too serious and he can return to action injury-free very shortly.
City could have scored three or four more in the final twenty minutes, but the scoreline remained 4-1. Bony missed a penalty, Eliaquim Mangala came close and all in all, the result was a deserved one in truth.
But with more fears over Kompany’s fitness, it’ll be a step back in their title charge for sure in the long run.
Kompany is consoled by both Kolarov and Fernandinho as he trudges off injured. | Image: Getty