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Sunday April 1, 2012Manchester City 3 - 3 Sunderland

By Rhonda Richards | In Match Reports - Home Games

Manchester City fought back from two goals down to salvage a 3-3 draw with Sunderland at the Etihad Stadium, keeping alive their hopes of securing the Premier League title.

Sunderland are a rejuvenated side under new manager Martin O’Neill and the Black Cats looked set to shock Roberto Mancini’s men, only for late goals from Mario Balotelli and Aleksander Kolarov to seal a point for the hosts.

Phil Bardsley got the first clean effort of the game off which Joe Hart caught early on, whilst Kolo Toure had to be alert to block Stephane Sessegnon’s low shot moments later.

It was tit-for-tat in the middle of the park as both sides toiled for the advantage, and it was to be Sunderland that drew first blood.

Sessegnon laid the ball off to Sebatastian Larsson and the Swedish midfielder slotted past Hart to make it 1-0 to the visitors.

The City faithful were immediately in full voice to drive their side on, and City had a penalty shout turned down after Balotelli went down in the penalty area.

However, they weren’t to be denied another spot-kick two minutes later when Edin Dzeko went down under the challenge of Craig Gardner, and Balotelli coolly stepped up to make it 1-1.

The game approached half-time with both sides seemingly content to go in at the interval level, but O’Neill’s side had an ace up their sleeve as they grabbed a second in the dying seconds of the first-half.

Sessegnon again it was that set it up, floating in a ball to the far post and Bendtner rising highest to head home and make it 2-1 to the away side just before the break.

Micah was forced off within injury at half-time and the opening 10 minutes of the second-half were a fairly slow-paced affair. Things were, though, to take a turn for the worse as Sunderland extended their lead. City were caught cold at the back and the ever-dangerous trio of Sessegnon, Bendtner and Larsson again combining, the latter eventually slotted home to make it 3-1 after a fine flowing move.

Mancini was furious on the touchline, and understandably so as City faced the prospect of handing arch rivals Manchester United the chance to double their lead to six points at the top of the table.

If anything it was Sunderland that looked more likely to extend their lead, but when City did regain some form of rhythm, with Carlos Tevez at the heart of them, they were able to haul themselves back into it.

Balotelli it was that grabbed City’s second, cutting in from the left and curling home delightfully having had a mixed afternoon for the hosts, and the goal gave Mancini’s men a fighting chance with five minutes remaining.

And City were level a minute later as Kolarov struck a firm and low drive home from 30 yards out, making it 3-3 with three minutes of normal time remaining.

Despite the home side throwing everything bar the kitchen sink at Sunderland in the dying minutes, Mancini had to settle for the point. Whilst the result is far from ideal as they look to pressure league leaders United, having stared defeat in the face for much of the game they’ll take it.

Man City: Hart, Richards, Kolo Toure, Kompany, Kolarov, De Jong, Yaya Toure, Silva, Balotelli, Milner, Dzeko. Subs: Pantilimon, Clichy, Pizarro, Barry, Johnson, Tevez, Zabaleta.

Sunderland: Mignolet, Bardsley, Turner, Cattermole, Larsson, Gardner, Kilgallon, Colback, McClean, Sessegnon, Bendtner. Subs: Campbell, Richardson, Vaughan, Dong-won, Meyler, Kyrgiakos, Westwood.