Sunderland 0-2 Manchester City: Impressive Black Cats start ended by Aguero and Sane goals

If the headline is painfully familiar, then the quality of opponent at least leaves some room for hope.

Sunday, 5th March 2017, 5:26 pm
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:08 am
David Silva celebrates after Sane made it 2-0
David Silva celebrates after Sane made it 2-0

Again Sunderland started the game well, raising the noise in the Stadium of light to an exhilarating din.

Again hopes were raised, again they faded.

Sergio Aguero pounced at the front post just before the end of the first half, Leroy Sane racing clear on the hour to make it two.

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From there on in the visitors strolled to victory, finding the poise and time on the ball that Sunderland had so impressively denied them in the first half.

The gulf in quality was not always apparent in the opening period, but again the hosts did not have enough.

Aguero's opener, just minutes before the interval, was a brutal blow to a Black Cats side who had caught Pep Guardiola's side cold with a high-risk but brave and impressive press.

Right from the first whistle it was clear that Didier Ndong had been pushed into an unorthodox number ten role, not as a central playmaker but to disrupt City's distribution from the back.

Despite the frightening pace the visitors possessed in their wide areas, Sunderland were high up the pitch and getting Billy Jones and Bryan Oviedo involved in encouraging areas.

The former almost helped break the deadlock, hitting the byline and flashing across goal, Jermain Defoe just unable to convert.

Jones also had two good opportunities in the air, heading first straight at Willy Caballero and then just wide from a corner.

The hosts were unlucky not to take the lead when Defoe picked Jordan Pickford's long ball out of mid air in the 20th minute. He looked to have little on in front of him, so dropped the shoulder and cracked a drive off the right-hand post. Fabio Borini was first to the follow-up but headed off balance and it drifted wide.

City were far from their fluid best, even if they did have close to 70% possession in the opening period.

Sunderland were disrupting their play, frustratingly just not quite able to keep better hold of it when they won it back.

If a goal was to come from the visitors it was always likely to come from Leroy Sane or Raheem Sterling, the pair threatening on the flanks. Sane should have set Silva up when he wriggled clear of Jones' attentions in the 36th minute, only to cross too heavily for the onrushing Silva, who couldn't connect.

The goal, when it came, was a mix of good fortune and poor concentration from the Black Cats.

Sterling's cross was straight at Oviedo, but the deflection carried it threateningly towards the near post.

Aguero got in front of Lamine Kone and scored with an excellent chip into the roof of the net.

The game was as good as up fifteen minutes into the second period, the impressive Leroy Sane demonstrating why he is one of Europe's most highly-rated teenagers.

Sunderland had acquitted themselves relatively well after the break but couldn't quite get close to the City ball-players as they had done in the opening period.

David Silva, a surprisingly peripheral figure in the first half, broke into space and picked the perfect moment to release his German winger. The electric 19-year-old had the run on Jones and powered clear over his shoulder.

The finish was clinical, past Jordan Pickford and in off the far post.

Sunderland didn't roll over as Larsson and Kone forced saves from Caballero, but it was become increasingly clear that they were running out of steam as City started to find more space to counter.

Didier Ndong kept going, running box-to-box wherever possible, and Januzaj perhaps should have done better with a header when the Gabon man slid Bryan Oviedo in to cross.

That brief flicker belied the pattern of the game, Manchester City coasting, their dominance of possession beginning to resemble a training exercise.

Jack Rodwell replaced Darron Gibson but the vigour from the host's game had largely gone.

With ten minutes to go the Black Cats looked reliant on either a sudden flash of individual brilliance or a bad City lapse.

Wahbi Khazri was again introduced with the clock ticking and the game all but done, and his corner was headed into the path of Defoe by Kone. He turned home but the flag was up, the 34-year-old yards offside.

Aguero, De Bruyne and Nolito all went close to making it three, the former forcing a brilliant stop from Jordan Pickford.

The sight of the superb Sane being replaced bu Fabian Delph was relief of sorts, but Guardiola's side strolled home to leave Sunderland heading into a fortnight's break ever closer to the drop.