By William Wood | In Match Reports - Home Games
Manchester City emerged victorious as their clash with Sunderland ended 4-3 in a game that it transpired was to be Mark Hughes’ last at Eastlands, with the Welshman sacked immediately after.
Hughes’ position as manager had been called into question in the lead up to the encounter following a poor run of results, and as rumours circulated suggesting that Roberto Mancini was among the crowd his fate seemed to have been sealed.
And if he was looking for an assured performance from his side to secure a stay of execution he was to be sorely let down as City were again imperious up-front but shaky at the back, a situation made worse by Micah’s injury early on.
One key change to the starting-eleven was the introduction of Roque Santa Cruz in Emmanuel Adebayor’s place, and the Paraguayan took little time to stake his claim for a permanent slot as he opened the scoring.
Craig Bellamy – sorely missed before this encounter – coasted through the
Sunderland defence before picking out Santa Cruz, and the forward added the finishing touch.
And it was two soon after with Bellamy involved once again, this time going down under the challenge of Nyron Nosworthy, and Carlos Tevez stepped up to convert the spot-kick.
As has been the case of late, though, just as City looked to be cruising Steve
Bruce’s men got themselves back in it, John Mensah climbing highest to head past Shay Given.
Micah picked up a knock in the proceeding minutes and while he tried to continue, he was forced off as Pablo Zabaleta took his spot.
Sunderland should have been level a minute later only for Gareth Barry to make a superb last ditch tackle, but they had mere seconds to wait for an equaliser as Jordan Henderson capitalised on hesitancy in the City defence.
It took another moment of Bellamy inspiration, part-funded by Shaun Wright
Phillips’ invention down the right, to restore the home side’s lead, Santa Cruz dummying from the latter’s cross and allowing his strike partner to fire home.
3-2 it stood as half-time was signalled by the referee, and when they returned it was City who looked most likely to net again as Tevez curled goal-wards only for Martin Fulop to superbly tip over.
Sunderland were quiet but deceptively so, perhaps, as Kenwyne Jones netted a third for the away side as he connected with Henderson’s pinpoint ball into the box, with Given receiving a booking for his protestations about the goal.
If both sets of fans thought that the eventfulness was to end there, however, they were wrong. Barry dribbled his way to the by-line, knocked the ball across goal and Santa Cruz was on hand to tap home to make it 4-3.
The game had had everything, and it was capped off when Michael Turner caught Barry with an elbow and was subsequently dismissed which all but ended the Black Cats’ challenge.
All of the post-match discussion centred on Hughes’ impending departure, with
Mancini confirmed as the new boss at a press conference as City look to what ought to be an exciting future.
Man City: Given, Richards, Onuoha, Toure, Sylvinho, Wright-Phillips, Barry,
Ireland, Bellamy, Tevez, Santa Cruz. Subs: Taylor, Zabaleta, Kompany,
Robinho, Petrov, Adebayor, Weiss.
Sunderland: Fulop, Nosworthy, Turner, Mensah, McCartney, Malbranque,
Henderson, Cattermole, Reid, Bent, Campbell. Subs: Carson, Bardsley, Da
Silva, Murphy, Richardson, Jones, Healy.
Man City: Santa Cruz (4’, 69’), Tevez (12’, pen), Bellamy (35’)
Sunderland: Mensah (16’), Henderson (24’), Jones (62’), Turner s/o (90’)