Title blow for City after 1-0 loss at Sunderland
Seven months after winning the Premier League with Manchester
City, Adam Johnson inflicted a blow to his former club’s title
defense by clinching a 1-0 victory for Sunderland on Wednesday.
The England winger, who was considered surplus to requirements
at City in the offseason, embarrassed former teammate Joe Hart with
a dipping strike in the 53rd minute that beat the goalkeeper at the
The setback left second-place City seven points behind leader
Manchester United at the season’s halfway point.
”We had a lot of chances, we played well, but we didn’t
score,” City manager Roberto Mancini said. ”This is our problem,
we don’t score. We don’t score enough goals to win the game.
”Last year, we scored one, two, three goals every game. Now
when we have chances, we are too soft and this is not good. We are
too soft in attack, too soft when we have chances, too soft when we
Sunderland turned in one of its best displays of the season,
with Hart having to turn away Steven Fletcher’s skidding effort and
keep out Stephane Sessegnon late on.
But Sunderland goalkeeper Simon Mignolet was also alert to deny
Yaya Toure and David Silva before the break, and Sergio Aguero in
the second half as City slumped to a third consecutive 1-0 loss at
”They are very lucky against us,” Mancini said. “They defend
well, but we need to be stronger.”
City might have been ahead with just eight minutes gone. Captain
Vincent Kompany’s header came back off the crossbar and Yaya
Toure’s goalbound follow-up was hacked away by Mignolet.
Silva curled a 10th-minute free-kick wastefully over the bar and
Toure saw a curling effort plucked from underneath the crossbar by
Mignolet three minutes later.
City was pinning Sunderland deep inside its own half and it
seemed only a matter of time before they made the pressure
Mignolet had to be at his best once again after Carlos Tevez and
Aguero combined to put Silva in on goal, only for the goalkeeper to
block his close-range effort.
Seconds later Hart had to dive to his right to turn away
Fletcher’s sharp left-foot drive and Sunderland, buoyed after
weathering the early storm, started to force its way into the
Johnson was enjoying the better of his individual battle with
Pablo Zabaleta, who played much of the half with a heavily bandaged
head after suffering a cut, and Sunderland upped the tempo.
The hosts picked up where they had left off in the second half
as James McClean and Johnson stretched City, and they soon took the
After City manager Roberto Mancini was left appealing in vain
for a free kick for Craig Gardner’s challenge on Zabaleta, Johnson
picked up possession and cut inside before blasting in a dipping
shot that caught Hart flat-footed at his near post and squirmed
into the bottom corner.
Mancini, who absolved Hart of blame for the goal, was angry that
play was allowed to continue by referee Kevin Friend in the run-up
to the goal.
”The referee ate too much for Christmas. He was not in good
form,” Mancini said. ”He and the linesman, I think, after
Christmas, it can happen to have a bad performance like
Sessegnon might have doubled his side’s advantage soon after,
but pulled his effort across the face of goal with City in
The visitors were almost breached once again on the hour when
McClean picked out Sessegnon in front of goal, but the Benin
international could not take the ball in his stride.
Kompany, who had already been booked, was fortunate to escape a
second yellow card for a block on McClean as City struggled to
contain a Black Cats side growing in confidence by the minute.
City gradually regained their composure and started to move the
ball confidently once again and Mignolet had to claim a 68th-minute
Zabaleta cross at his near post after being played in by James
The Belgium goalkeeper excelled once again two minutes later to
deny Aguero one on one as deep Sunderland defending prevented City
from finding a breakthrough.