A relatively quiet start to the game with both sides struggling to maintain possession of the ball was livened up a notch after a mere two minutes when Carlos Tevez evaded the offside trap to bear down on goal, taken out of the equation near the corner of the penalty area by Carlos Cuellar.
Cuellar received a booking for his troubles, with things made even worse as Alexander Kolarov opened the scoring from the resulting freekick. Not naturally sided for a left-footer, the Serbian hit it with power around the wall and beyond Simon Mignolet to make it 1-0 with barely five minutes on the clock.
Stephane Sessegnon was the first to register a Sunderland effort anywhere near Joe Hart's goal after a freekick bobbled around in the area, falling to the Beninese attacker who's dipping volley didn't dip enough to really bother England's number one 'keeper.
Things picked up though for us, hearts not lost as Craig Gardner sent a decent delivery into the area which was forced behind for a corner as Steven Flethcer lurked with intent, unfortunately Seb Larsson's delivery from both corners which were won at the time was way, way below his usual standard.
We enjoyed a decent spell of possession though, and didn't look out of the game by any stretch of the imagination, however we had Simon Mignolet to thank for keeping the score at just 1-0 too after 20 minutes when he superbly stopped Pablo Zabaleta adding another as he ghosted in behind Danny Rose at the far post. Carlos Tevez wasn't a million miles away on the rebound either, and a reminder that this game could still go either way.
The main story line of the first half though seemed to be the battle between Mario Balotelli and Craig Gardner. On numerous occasions the pair clashed, and it usually ended with the 'entertaining' Italian falling about like an absolute fanny. The third of such incidents leading to another freekick on the edge of the area, with Kolarov this time smashing the ball into Seb Larsson's beautiful face rather than the back of the net.
Things seemed very even in terms of possession in the first half, but there was only one side actually doing anything with it and that was the hosts, notably via Tevez who seemed to be able to find space and a shot on numerous occasions, denied by Cuellar, Mignolet and Rose on separate occasions. Meanwhile at the other end the best we could offer in response was an effort from Steven Fletcher, which through a deflection lost all the sting in the shot and it trickled through to Hart for an easy stop.
As the half time whistle approached there was one moment which summed up our efforts going forward in the first half. Sessegnon in a good position wide chose not to cross with three waiting in the middle, instead opting to play the ball backwards. The cross comes in, McClean's awkward overhead-miskick-volley-type-thing goes miles wide back to Sessegnon, who in turn is offside. Neither of the pair have been at the races so far today.
A The frustration referred to in the headline is that we're being out played. That's not unexpected against a team loaded with the quality of Manchester City, but we're also not helping matters with some hugely ineffective play when in possession and even more so going forward where Joe Hart has had little-to-nothing to do.
Changes will be needed to get back on level terms, and to even compete in this game, and hopefully Martin O'Neill has a a full arsenal of rockets to fire up backsides during the interval, as there's a good eight or nine who require them.
Technically, we're not out of it yet, but we need to pick things up a hell of a lot to get back into it.
Join us after the game for a report on the second half, and our player ratings shortly after full time, HERE.