Match Report: Adam Johnson's joy is Manchester City's woe as seven point gap is built following defeat to Sunderland

Sunderland 1 Manchester City 0

Stadium of Light

This time Manchester City got their seasonal woe in early on Wearside.

Last season they were beaten on New Year’s Day by a 93rd-minute sucker punch of a goal by  Sunderland’s South Korean substitute Ji Dong-won. Yesterday the Premier League champions were floored by a 53rd-minute Boxing Day strike by the £10m winger they sold to Sunderland in August.

Whether City can recover from a blow inflicted by Adam Johnson, and compounded by Manchester United’s Houdini act against Newcastle, only time and the tide of the New Year title race will tell. But Roberto Mancini’s men go into the final weekend of 2012 with a seven-point gap to close on their swanky neighbours.

“At the moment United are better than us,” the City manager conceded in the aftermath. “We need to concentrate on ourselves and solve our problem. We are too soft in attack, too soft on our chances.”

Mancini also pointed to a softness in the officiating – notably for a challenge on Pablo Zabaleta that went unchecked by referee Kevin Friend in  the lead up to Johnson’s goal. “The referee ate too much for Christmas,”  he said when asked afterwards about the incident.

A helping of humble pie would have been more in order. Sunderland fully merited their victory for a stirring performance which brought back memories of the Black Cats’ famous fifth round replay success en route to the FA Cup back in the mists of 1973. It was a supreme all-round effort by Martin O’Neill’s men, who have turned their season with three wins out of four.

“I’m not bothered about what Roberto Mancini says,” O’Neill reflected. “I’ve heard it before. I thought we were terrific today.”

When the two teams met here in that New Year’s Day game, of course, Johnson was on the other side, tormenting Sunderland with his dazzling wing play in the first half but doing the same to Mancini as he performed a disappearing trick after the interval. Yesterday the England wide boy, formerly of Middlesbrough, took his place on the right for Sunderland and drew the first chance of the afternoon after trapping a wonderful cross-field pass from Danny Rose and being floored  on the right edge of the penalty area by Zabaleta.

Johnson took the free-kick himself but smacked it straight into the defensive wall. Then followed a 20-minute period in which City got into a slick passing groove, David Silva and Carlos Tevez pushing the ball around with all the flair of latter day Harlem Globetrotters in support of Sergio Aguero.

Fortunately for Sunderland, Vincent Kompany found the crossbar rather than the back of the net after meeting a left-wing corner from Silva with a thumping header at the near post. Simon Mignolet was also called upon to stop a curling shot from Yaya Toure and a close-range effort.

To Sunderland’s credit, though, they rode the early pressure and finished the first-half on top – their endeavour typified by left winger James McLean, who tracked back deep into defence to execute a superb covering tackle  on Tevez.

Eight minutes into the second-half, the Sunderland fans were celebrating. In attempting to launch a counter attack from deep on the left, Zabaleta – head bandaged Basil Fawlty-style following a first-half knock – only succeeded in running into trouble. Carlos Cuellar took possession and found Johnson on the right. With Zabaleta stranded, Silva dropped back to mark his former colleague – only for Johnson to shimmy inside and unleash a left-foot drive that clearly took Joe Hart  by surprise.

 The City goalkeeper knew he had cocked up, the ball having squeezed between his body and the near post, before Johnson realised he had scored. The stadium erupted and Sunderland might have been swept along to a quick second. McLean found Stephane Sessegnon on the right side of the  area but the Benin forward dragged his shot wide.

Thereafter Sunderland had to dig in for their unexpected victory. They did so in admirable fashion, defending from the front in such resolute, all-hands-to-the-pump fashion that a half season of such frustration among  their loyal followers gave way to the kind of vocal support that must have had City thinking they had twelve men to beat.

With Danny Rose magnificent at left back, Cuellar commanding at the heart of defence and Jack Colback drawing a ‘thou shalt not pass’ line in front of his defence, City became increasingly desperate. Mancini, David Platt and  Brian Kidd convened at pitch side,  deciding to send on Edin Dzeko for Tevez.

Mignolet did have to turn wide a low drive from Aguero but the greater threat came from Sunderland on the break. With 10 minutes left Hart had to come to the rescue when substitute Fraizer Campbell released Sessegnon through the middle.

In the end, such was City’s lack of attacking clout, Hart charged forward for an injury time corner. There was to be no Jimmy Glass ending.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Travel
travel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Robyn Lawley
people
News
people
News
people
News
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Life and Style

Between the 25-27th of July, Earls Courts’ gloomy interior was doused in shades of bubblegum and parma violets as it played host to Hyper Japan, the venue’s annual celebration of anime, art, Kawaii street fashion and everything that encompasses the term J-culture. Bursting with Japanese pop culture and infused with Asian street food Hyper Japan is an invigorating culture shock that brings cosplayers, creatives and gamers like myself from across the globe.

Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Arts and Entertainment
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint)
newsBloomsbury unveils new covers for JK Rowling's wizarding series
News
scienceScientists try to explain the moon's funny shape
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star