EVEN AT Under-21 level, Manchester City are a moneybags operation whose cheque book can see them prevail.
Young striker Jose Pozo, largely kept under wraps at Eppleton CW last night, set City back £2.5million as a 15-year-old three years ago, while an 8,000-seater stadium now sits in the shadows of the Etihad.
City spare no expense. After all, just one player who comes good in their big bucks fishing net will pay for the rest.
With that background, it made the 1-0 victory for Sunderland U21s - who had already beaten City last month in the U21 Premier League Cup - all the more satisfying, as they made the visitors look, well, ordinary.
City pushed hard for an equaliser during the finale, but Sunderland were well-worth the win after Mikael Mandron’s header ensured there was a fruitful reward at the end of a flowing move.
The early exchanges of the game were confined to the middle of the park, with Sunderland the first to seriously threaten either goal in the 24th minute.
Carl Lawson burst down the left-hand side of the area and hit a right-footed shot across goal which was palmed away by City keeper Angus Gunn, before Liam Agnew’s header on the rebound was blocked behind.
Five minutes later, Sunderland were on the back foot when City winger Jordy Hiwula burst down the right-hand side of the area, but saw his shot blocked at the near post by Black Cats stopper Maksymillian Stryjek.
Sunderland were a whisker away from breaking the deadlock on the stroke of half-time when Martin Smith’s raking pass over the top found the head of Mandron, who sent a looping effort across goal inches wide of the far post.
But the opener arrived for Sunderland in the 52nd minute when Smith picked out substitute Rees Greenwood on the left with a lovely pass.
Greenwood’s pull-back was met by Smith, 15 yards out, who smashed a shot against the underside of the crossbar.
However, Mandron was alert to the rebound and cushioned a header into the far corner.
City almost drew level instantly when Jack Byrne picked out Jose Pozo in acres of space down the right-hand side of the area, but his right-footed shot across goal was gathered well by Stryjek.
The visitors pushed hard for an equaliser in the final 15 minutes - right-back Adam Drury’s low ball across the six-yard box agonisingly evading a final touch to tap it over the line, with the Sunderland back-line stretched.
But Sunderland held on, with Robbie Stockdale’s side yet to concede a goal in 2015.
SUNDERLAND: Stryjek, Cartwright, T Robson, Agnew (Greenwood 51), McNamee, Beadling, Mavrias, Smith, Mandron, Honeyman (Blinco 90), Lawson. Subs not used: Ledger, Sukar, Burke. Booked: Beadling (64), Honeyman (87), Maffeo (89)
MANCHESTER CITY: Gunn, Tasende, Drury, Bryan, Maffeo, Evans, Ntcham, Hiwula, Pozo, Byrne (Celina 66). Barker. Subs not used: Lawlor, Plummer, Bossaerts, Horsfield. Booked: Byrne (60)