Roberto Mancini will meet his players for the first time this morning, but the Italian can expect a lukewarm reception from a splintered squad dismayed at the dismissal of Mark Hughes, who lost his job in the wake of his side's thrilling, if flawed, victory at Eastlands. Hughes's departure has resulted in stinging criticism of the club from Richard Bevan, the League Managers Association chief executive, yet Mancini's mood will be soothed by the fact he will have substantial funds available to spend when the transfer window reopens next week.
City currently lie sixth in the table, with a game in hand on some of those above them, and have reached the semi-finals of the Carling Cup. They have lost two league games all season, one of which was the last-gasp defeat at Manchester United. Mancini, though, could do worse than watch a video of this game if he wants to know where his new team's failings lie. This was City in a nutshell, the only difference being that, this time, they managed to hold on to their lead.
Breathtaking going forward in the shape of Craig Bellamy, Carlos Tevez and Roque Santa Cruz but breathtakingly bad at the back, where Kolo Touré performed like a pub player. Touré is not the only one to have let down Hughes: Emmanuel Adebayor and Robinho, both ironically dropped for this game, have failed to deliver as have Wayne Bridge and Joleon Lescott.
Bellamy, along with Shay Given, has not. He was irresistible from start to finish, creating Santa Cruz's first goal, winning the penalty for Tevez to convert and scoring himself before half- time to make it 3-2, after brave Sunderland had responded through John Mensah and Jordan Henderson.
Kenwyne Jones hauled Sunderland level for a third time, only for Santa Cruz to score the winner. Sunderland finished with 10 men after Michael Turner was harshly shown a straight red card for a clumsy challenge on Barry in stoppage time. Manager Steve Bruce said: "I hope Keith Hackett [referee's chief] can have a look at it and he can see it was a shuddering challenge between two of the most honest professionals you're going to get. I hope the referee looks at it again. I doubt it, though."
Manchester City (4-4-1-1): Given; Richards (Zabaleta 22), Toure, Onuoha, Sylvinho; Wright-Phillips (Kompany 52), Ireland, Barry, Bellamy (Petrov 87); Tevez; Santa Cruz. Substitutes not used: Taylor (gk), Weiss, Robinho, Adebayor.
Sunderland (4-5-1): Fulop; Nosworthy, Mensah (Healy 76), Turner, McCartney; Campbell (Richardson 60), Henderson, Malbranque (Jones 41) Cattermole, Reid; Bent. Substitutes not used: Carson (gk), Bardsley, Murphy, Da Silva.
Referee: A Marriner (W Midlands).
Booked: Manchester City Given, Zabaleta. Sunderland Nosworthy, Cattermole.
Sent-off: Sunderland Turner.
Man of the match: Bellamy.
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