New signing Donald Love made his debut at right back in place of the injured Billy Jones in a Sunderland side depleted by injuries for the opening game of the season. Other new recruits Adnan Janujaj, Papy Djilobodji and Paddy McNair started on the bench alongside the seventeen year old Joel Asoro.
Injuries to Lee Cattermole and Kirchhoff meant John O’Shea and Jack Rodwell were teamed in front of a back four which featured Lamine Kone despite the off-field distractions this week. Jermain Defoe was back from the thigh injury that kept him out of much of pre-season, and there was a place for Lynden Gooch up front after impressing over the summer.
The first Pep Guardiola team of the season saw Hart replaced by Caballero in goal and the debut of both John Stones from Everton and Nolito, the £14m striker from Celta Vigo. There was no place for Yaya Toure.
Sunderland kicked off briskly and were rewarded with a free kick just outside the penalty area which Van Aanholt tested the keeper and Gooch followed up with a smart cross that Watmore couldn’t quite get enough power on and Caballero pushed over the bar.
However, Sunderland were denied the corner and from the goal kick Sterling broke down the right, drove into the penalty area where a sliding challenge from van Aanholt took out his legs and referee Richard Madley immediately pointed to the spot. Sergio Aguero stepped up and cooly placed the ball out of Mannone’s reach to open his account for the season.
City then dominated possession and Sunderland were left chasing ghosts in midfield but on ten minutes an interception from Borini in midfield let Gooch in on the left who sent a second good cross across the six yard box which evaded the both Borini and Defoe.
Sunderland were not pressuring City in midfield, who were allowed to play at a leisurely pace and build their attacks at will. However, the Sunderland defence was resolute and City’s chances were limited.
When in possession Sunderland resorted to long balls forward to Defoe, hoping to catch City on the break, and despite close attention from John Stones, this was Sunderland’s most likely opportunity to level the score. A series of corners towards the end of the half saw Sunderland’s best chance fall to Defoe from a Kone header but his instinctive volley was straight at Caballero.
The half time Pep talk obviously injected some life into City who burst out of the blocks from kick off and a Kevin De Bruyne cross was smartly cut out by Mannone before Aguero could double his tally and City’s lead.
On 57 mins Nolito came off to be replaced by Jesus Navas to inject more pace into the City attack. Sterling who had been lively all game moved to the opposite wing to face Donald Love and went passed him on the first attempt, crossed into centre where van Aanholt cleared straight to Aguero who shot wide from nine yards.
Both managers then made substitutions with Delph coming on for Silva and Moyes bringing on Khazri for Gooch and Januzah for Watmore.
Despite persistent pressure from City, Sunderland continued to look to hit them on the break, and on 71 minutes Januzaj broke down the right, squirmed away from three defenders, squared the ball to Borini, who in turn fed in Rodwell, who played the ball through Stones legs to Defoe with just the keeper to beat. He doesn’t miss from that distance and slid the ball past Caballero. One all. Cue questioning looks from Pep Guardiola on the touchline.
City continued to press and despite more solid defending from Kone and Kaboul, Jesus Navas, with two minutes to go inside normal time went outside van Aanholt, drove for the byline and hit a hard cross into the six yard area where Paddy McNair, just on as a substitute could do nothing but divert the ball into his own net with almost his first touch of the match. It’s a cruel game sometimes.
Four minutes of extra time were not enough for Sunderland to hit back and Guardiola ended his first game with a narrow victory. Luck played a large part in the win but City continually got the ball into dangerous areas and eventually got the break. Sunderland will feel hard done by, but our tactic of sitting back and soaking up pressure came back to bite us. We move on, hopefully on the back of some more activity in the transfer market.
Man City: Calallero, Sagna, Stones, Kolarov, Clichy (Iheanacho 79’), Fernandinho, Silva (Delph 63’), Nolito (Jesus Navas 58’), De Bruyne, Sterling, Aguero.
Subs: Hart, Zabaleta, Fernando, Jesus Navas, Delph, Otamendi, Iheanacho.
Goals: Aguero (pen) (4’) McNair (og) (88’)
Sunderland (4-2-3-1): Mannone, Love, Kaboul, Kone, van Aanholt, Rodwell, O’Shea, Gooch (Khazri 63’), Watmore (Januzah 63’), Borini, Defoe (McNair 83’).
Subs: Djilobodji, Khazri, Pickford, Lens, McNair, Asoro, Januzaj
Goals: Defoe (71’)
Referee: Robert Madley
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