Roy Keane said he was not angry, Roy Keane said he was not going to complain, Roy Keane said when asked what he had learnt on Saturday: "If I tell you, I'll have to kill you." It was a joke, though there was no smile to accompany it.
Despite his protestations to the contrary, it would be fair to assume Keane was furious. Twice Sunderland have played a Manchester City side there for the taking this season and twice Sunderland have lost. In early October an excuse could be found in the acclimatisation process, but not in April, not after three Sunderland wins had suggested stability, belonging and the possibility of hope.
"We've had our three victories," Keane said, his tone scathing. "Maybe we should have had an open-top bus last weekend, because everyone was getting carried away. I think it's possible to win four games in a row. Arsenal went 50 games unbeaten at one stage, remember. People took their eye off the ball this week, everybody at the club. Staff included," which should make for an interesting week at the training ground as preparations are made for Sunday's visit to St James' Park. Were Bolton to win at Middlesbrough on Saturday, the jumpiness that had gone from Wearside would return.
Sunderland's relegation remains highly unlikely but a sense of safety cannot justify this sort of incoherent first 45 minutes. Kieran Richardson was taken off at half-time, but Keane said "six or seven" could have gone.
Sunderland were better after the interval and scored an impressive goal through captain Dean Whitehead. But it was an equaliser after 18-year-old substitute Daniel Sturridge had fallen in the box, prompting Mike Riley to award a penalty that Elano stroked in.
The goal stemmed from a mistake from Nyron Nosworthy, whose central partner Jonny Evans lunged into a tackle eight minutes later. After Evans failed to win that tackle, Elano fed Darius Vassell, who scored a scarcely deserved winner with a scuffed shot. "The luckiest goal of my career," he said.
Afterwards, Eriksson talked half positively of Richard Dunne's contract, and of Ronaldinho he said: "I have not heard anything, but I am sure if he had a choice between Milan and Manchester City, of course he will go to Manchester City." Unlike Keane, Eriksson was smiling.
Goals: Elano (79) 0-1; Whitehead (82) 1-1; Vassell (87) 1-2.
Sunderland (4-4-2) Gordon; Bardsley, Nosworthy, Evans, Collins; Chopra (O'Donovan, 80), Whitehead, Reid, Richardson (Leadbitter, h-t); Murphy (Edwards, 62), Jones. Substitutes not used: Fulop, McShane.
Manchester City (4-4-1-1) Hart; Sun Jihai, Corluka, Dunne, Ball; Ireland (Sturridge, 58; Vassell, 82), Fernandes, Johnson, Petrov; Elano (Hamann, 90); Benjani. Substitutes not used: Isaksson, Geovanni.
Referee: M Riley (West Yorkshire).
Booked: Sunderland Whitehead, Bardsley, Nosworthy. Manchester City Fernandes, Corluka.
Man of the match: Corluka.
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