Man City 3 Sunderland 0: Lessons as Mancini’s men beat Black Cats
Man City 3 Sunderland 0: What did we learn Roberto Mancini's men eased past the Black Cats at the Etihad Stadium?
Kolarov becoming Premier League’s deadliest set-piece taker
Any cobwebs from a disappointing Manchester City performance in a 1-1 draw with Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League midweek were dusted off in emphatic fashion by Aleksandar Kolarov in the second minute at Eastlands. Last season, Mario Balotelli and Kolarov became embroiled in a very public argument over who should take a late set-piece in the Citizens’ 2-2 stalemate with the Black Cats. The pair entered lengthy discussions again with James Milner acting as mediator. Kolarov assumed responsibility from the right of Simon Mignolet’s area and struck a beautifully inwardly curling left-footed effort past Sunderland’s goalkeeper. The former Lazio left-back has now scored four goals in his last five games for club and country, including two free-kicks against Real Madrid and Aston Villa. With City heading towards three points, Milner added gloss to the scoreline with his own free-kick effort which was inadvertently guided past Mignolet by Craig Gardner to complete a 3-0 win.
Barry returns to City line-up
Gareth Barry is continuing his rehabilitation from a hamstring injury in the summer, with Mancini demanding an improvement from the England midfielder in late September. The 31-year-old is one of the Citizens’ least glamorous stars but his consistent performances have made him just as valuable as Sergio Aguero or Yaya Toure – he made 34 appearances in their title-winning campaign. It was a surprise Mancini turned to Jack Rodwell midweek when Javi Garcia was forced off injured in the first half and it was a mistake from the inexperienced midfielder which led to Dortmund’s goal. With City conceding in their last 10 games, Barry’s return to form was becoming pressing and there were signs he is edging back to his best against Sunderland. The former Aston Villa midfielder was content to shield City’s back four and play simple passes to his more creative team-mates. Barry won 100 per cent of his tackles, making five vital clearances and completing 55 successful passes in an efficient display. Barry’s presence also freed up Toure to push forward and help David Silva create chances for City’s front men.
Aguero ignites Man City
Balotelli produced a sluggish first-half display which epitomised City’s overall team performance. The Italian striker was rankled by a series of challenges from Sunderland enforcer Craig Gardner, and as a result, spent the opening period complaining to the referee or clutching a tender part of his body. His link-up play with Carlos Tevez was virtually non-existent – the pair exchanged just six passes. In the 57th minute, Balotelli failed to convert Kolarov’s low cross from close-range and, unsurprisingly, Mancini opted to introduce Aguero. Immediately, the Argentina international linked up with his compatriot and City looked a side with more intent and purpose – the duo combined seven times in a 25-minute cameo. And it was Aguero who added City’s second to secure three points. Kolarov delivered a low cross into the area and the former Atletico Madrid star guided his finish past Mignolet – it was his first Premier League goal at the Etihad since his dramatic title-winning strike in May.
Hart and Fletcher end goal runs
Two runs came to an end at the Etihad as Steven Fletcher failed to score for the first time in five Premier League games, while City goalkeeper Joe Hart ended an unfavourable run of conceding in six successive league games. Sunderland’s £10m summer signing has been impressive since joining the Black Cats from relegated Wolverhampton Wanderers but he struggled when pitted against Mancini’s defence. The Scotland international resorted to optimistic efforts from outside the City area as Vincent Kompany had the measure of Sunderland’s only league goal scorer. Hart was impressive in midweek against Dortmund, and with City on top, the 25-year-old enjoyed a relatively straightforward afternoon. Mancini’s men conceded just 29 goals last term but Hart has already been beaten eight times after an unconvincing start to the season. However, it was a much improved performance against the Black Cats and Hart finally reached his milestone of 50 clean sheets for the club in the Premier League.