Wanchope's hat-trick ends agony for City

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"Just for once," said Joe Royle, his shirt wringing with sweat, "it would be nice to be able to see your side 4-0 up and light a cigar."

"Just for once," said Joe Royle, his shirt wringing with sweat, "it would be nice to be able to see your side 4-0 up and light a cigar."

Manchester City did what they are supposed to do; plunge their supporters through every kind of emotion, throwing away a two-goal lead, before Paulo Wanchope on his home debut finished an electrifying match by completing a hat-trick.

Wanchope has always been good at beginnings; in April 1997 he had announced himself with a goal from a 40-yard run to overcome Manchester United at Old Trafford. This would have given even more pleasure to the City faithful.

As an enduring image, the celebrations from the Costa Rican will certainly be far more fondly remembered than Steve Lomas wasting his own club's time by the corner flag as City were relegated in their previous game of top-flight football here.

Although he confessed to being appalled by his side's first-half defending, it was entirely appropriate that Peter Reid should have been the first Premiership manager in four years to take his side to Maine Road since it was his dismissal as manager in August 1993 that triggered the whole ghastly comedy of City's decline, halted only by his great friend, Royle.

Saturday's débâcle at Charlton sparked fears that City, a side that has scaled two divisions in as many seasons, might be a Watford with fans. Graham Taylor, however, never had the services of a Wanchope or a George Weah to call upon.

It took them two minutes and 50 seconds to combine as Weah went past a Sunderland defence that was continually outflanked to drive through a low cross for Wanchope lurking at the far post to trigger an explosion of noise and self-belief. They did it again, 11 minutes from time, in a rather clumsier one-two after Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips had pulled Sunderland level and Royle would have been happy with a point.

So shambolic was Sunderland's defending in the first half that Royle might have been lighting his cigar in the dressing-room during the interval. Stanislav Varga, who went off to give Steve Bould his 500th league appearance, had already cleared off the line when Wanchope slid another ball across for Alf Inge Haaland to bundle home.

You would not expect Manchester City to hold on to a two-goal lead and indeed they did not, twice undone by crosses from the right wing in the space of 100 seconds. The first was headed home by Quinn, whose last act as a Manchester City player had been to publicly apologise to supporters who "have given us part of their lives". Last night he caused them more grief and shortly afterwards another cross from Kevin Kilbane was chested down and cracked in by Kevin Phillips.

This was a significant goal since, having missed pre-season with a knee injury, the Golden Boot winner had enjoyed subdued games against Arsenal and City. He may not be fully fit but he can still finish beautifully. So, too, can Wanchope. With two minutes remaining he again slipped through a porous Sunderland defence to end a memorable night on Moss Side.

Manchester City (4-4-2): Weaver; Edghill, Prior, Howey, Tiatto; Wiekens, Haaland, Horlock, Kennedy; Weah, Wanchope. Substitutes not used: Wright (gk), Dickov, Wright-Phillips, Ritchie, Grant.

Sunderland (4-4-2): Macho; Makin, Butler, Varga (Bould, 48), Gray; Thirlwell (Roy, 45), Holloway (Reddy, 85), Hutchison, Kilbane; Phillips, Quinn. Substitutes not used: Marriott (gk), Oster.

Referee: D Elleray (Harrow).