Merry Christmas one and all! City win convincingly, United slump against Stoke and Leicester remind everyone that they’re human. Not bad, eh?
It was also fantastic to see Sam Allardyce gobble up a slice of humble pie. Does anyone remember the time the smug old Brummie paraded through the papers with details of the foolproof game plan that propelled West Ham United to a 2-1 victory over us in October last year? I do, and I won’t let him forget about it. “We all know that Manchester City play a certain way,” he said, clearly enjoying the opportunity handed to him by Telegraph Sport to boast about his achievement.
Nowadays, a win over Sunderland isn’t much to gloat about, but the memory of those comments made it a particularly enjoyable one for me. The Black Cats were absolutely atrocious, but factor in the Monday night defeat to Arsenal and the unwelcome arrival of a rather grisly new badge, the 4-1 thrashing of Sunderland was exactly what we needed. Better than a Crabbies alcoholic ginger beer on Christmas Day, in fact.
Raheem Sterling and Wilfried Bony were recalled to the starting eleven having witnessed most of Monday night’s disaster from the bench. The Blues certainly could have benefited from the former Liverpool winger’s blistering pace that evening, and it was the £44m man (note the price tag) who orchestrated our early dominance. Toying with and teasing former teammate, and the comparatively immobile, Sebastián Coates, Sterling could have had an early penalty but paid for his Ashley Young-like antics earlier in the season when referee Anthony Taylor waved his claims away.
Super Kev on the opposite flank, however, was even better. In a first half performance that may have left Patrick van Aanholt wishing he’d never been conceived, the Belgian picked out Sterling to put us ahead after just 12 minutes. You know things might just go your way when a 5’5 bloke out-jumps a player almost a foot taller than himself to nod the ball home.
And things did continue to go our way. Yaya Touré, scolded for his 80 minute and lauded for his 10 minute display against Arsenal, grabbed our second with an excellent low finish from 25 yards. Not as tasty as his phenomenal left-footed swing on Monday, though quite brilliant nonetheless, and his link-up play with De Bruyne and Sterling warmed the soul more effectively than pigs in blankets. A shame, though, that play like this so often can’t be replicated against better opposition.
The mince pies had obviously yet to be digested by the visitors who were abysmal. Danny Graham, Steven Fletcher and Fabio Borini all featured in an attacking (suicidal) Sunderland line-up, but couldn’t even get the better of Eliaquim Mangala to wrestle their side back into the game. On 22 minutes, a final nail was hammered into the coffin of Allardyce’s barmy game plan when De Bruyne found the noggin of Bony who headed us into a 3-0 lead. Just minutes later, ultimate embarrassment was achieved when Mangala almost hipped his way onto the scoresheet. What a first half!
De Bruyne capped off a stunning individual display with a precise finish within 10 minutes of the restart. The 24-year-old now has 10 goals and 11 assists in 23 games for us – a record nothing short of sensational. But in general, the second half was a bittersweet one. Borini issued an instant reply to Kev’s goal, netting a consolation for the visitors after his initial effort was saved well by Joe Hart. That goal erased any chance of a Christmas miracle clean sheet without Vincent Kompany in the starting line-up and we’ve now gone nine games without one.
With a fit Vincent Kompany in the side, I think we can all agree that this league is there for the taking. Unfortunately, just nine minutes after being reintroduced to his admirers after missing the last month of action with a calf injury, Kompany limped off the field. It was a development that condemned the Etihad Stadium to silence. That knowing wince on his face. A complexion flavoured by misery, disappointment, possibly even embarrassment. An incredible athlete that knows injury may plague him for the remainder of his career. Is it fair to call our captain and possibly the best defender in our history a liability? Because that’s what he’s become in the last two seasons. The 29-year-old has missed a total of 29 games for us in our last two campaigns and although much has been made of how much we struggle without him, it may be time to accept that Kompany needs replacing for good.
After the game, Kompany had some emotional words for his supporters.
Emotional words from the captain, but a statement that indicates just how important this club and its fans are to him. We can only wish this terrific athlete and man a speedy recovery.
It was an event that killed the tie in all senses. The free-flowing football stopped and the bouncing atmosphere circulating the Etihad Stadium came to an abrupt end. There was still time for David Silva to wriggle his way into Sunderland’s 18-yard-box and draw a penalty, but the chance for a fifth was fired into the wet Manchester skies by Bony. The striker certainly has a knack for missing great chances after scoring great goals and he must improve if he is to keep retain a starting place ahead of Sergio Agüero in the next few weeks.
In better news, Manuel Pellegrini has insisted that the Argentine will be “100% fit” to face Leicester City on Tuesday, and Bony’s failure to back up his petty comments about Peller’s tactical decisions should see Agüero return to the starting eleven at the King Power Stadium.
Leicester were handed their second defeat of the season against Liverpool today – perhaps a sign that they’re running out of steam a little? That may be wishful thinking, but we definitely have enough to go on and win this title if we can play some of the stuff we played today.
Come on City!
Rate the players
[statsfc-player-rater key=”D8SJIk7F6vySBuDaFQRSHy11xfbyCt18uXRinj2b” competition=”EPL” team=”Man City” competition=”EPL” date=”2015-12-26″ default_css=”true”]