Sergio Aguero and Leroy Sané were on target for Manchester City as they recorded their fourth straight league win, to make survival for David Moyes’ Sunderland even more of a long shot from this stage.
Sunderland are the team many City fans label as the modern day ‘bogey team’, and for the majority of the first half, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for a City fan to fear the game being a potential banana skin.
The bright spark in a truly awful season for the home side, Jermain Defoe, saw his venomous strike bounce off the post, about half an hour in. The alarm bells rang for City players, who looked off the pace in the opening stages. City saw a lot of early possession, but failed to pepper the Sunderland goal, which was a credit to the Sunderland defence who looked very rigid with no gaps for City to exploit.
The breakthrough finally came for City in the 42nd minute, when Aguero neatly finished from the front post after a nice ball from Sterling. The cross mirrored City’s fourth goal on Wednesday against Huddersfield, with Aguero making a clever run across the defender to get on the end of a drilled cross from Sterling.
David Silva could’ve doubled the lead right on half time, but his goal was ruled out for offside. David was onside by a significant distance, but the goal was ruled out as Sterling was judged to be interfering with play.
The outstanding stat in the game was that City had 71% of the ball, yet still managed to outrun Sunderland by a considerable distance – effort off the ball was excellent again. Not to mention the remarkable 90% passing accuracy that City registered. Every game that goes by, we see a bit more of ‘the Guardiola way’ seeping through to this team.
Despite Moyes being happy with the performance from his players – they were poor. The effort and defensive organisation was there but individual quality was few and far between, as City regained possession a number of times from unforced errors.
Saying this, as the second half went on, fears of a Sunderland equaliser out of nowhere increased, with anxiety clearly evolving from late equalisers by Middlesbrough and Swansea this season. Sunderland tried to go direct, but Manchester City were well organised.
Stones and Kolarov were excellent both with and without the ball, with the latter being hailed by many as City’s most improved under Pep, something no one would’ve predicted this time last year.
City finally got the goal they deserved, when Silva laid in Sané for his third goal in as many matches. The goal started from a stray Caballero ball, but Touré showed great determination to keep possession and start a destructive attack. Leroy’s electrifying pace and drive is something we have lacked for a number of years, and with Sterling doing the same on the other side, City’s attack is in the best form in a long time.
It is amazing to think Sané is surprising so many football fans, noting his consistently good performances for Schalke and City – now he has found his feet in England, his potential must be terrifying for rival clubs.
The scoreline at this point may suggest the game was out of sight, but there were a couple of minor scares for City. Caballero made two smart saves, both of which showed brilliant reactions. Jermain Defoe saw a goal disallowed correctly for offside, which if anything demonstrated how well drilled City’s defence are becoming, with a perfect line to catch three attackers offside.
The scoreline could’ve been more, but for Jordan Pickford in goal for Sunderland. The young English goalkeeper has been linked with Pep’s City, and today he demonstrated ability beyond his years. Playing in front of a poor defence is a great way to learn and gain experience as a goalkeeper, and it would be surprising for Pickford to not go on to be a great goalkeeper.
Overall, the individual performances of Touré and Silva were too much for bottom of the league Sunderland. Yaya put in a solid shift in the middle, and rarely misplaced a pass. He turns 34 in the summer, but looks to be the most sharp and in-shape he has been in a few seasons. It goes without saying that today was another David Silva masterclass in the middle, as the little Spaniard dictated the game yet again. In his deeper-lying role, David is experiencing a bane of form that is one of the main reasons for City’s success in the last six weeks or so. It is a credit to the midfield today that Kevin De Bruyne’s absence from the starting line up hasn’t been mentioned, although Kevin could’ve easily got himself a goal a couple of times when he replaced Toure late on.