Manchester City overcome Sunderland
Sunderland competed well with Manchester City for large parts of yesterday's game, but when your opponent is on fire and has two of the current form attacking players in the Premier League finding the net, any sort of result was always going to be a step too far for a side who even when they play okay don't have enough about them to battle their way to points.
Individual players in red-and-white put in the required effort but it wasn't enough. Didier Ndong started the game strongly before slowly being edged out by City's superior midfield, and Billy Jones worked hard and got himself in some good positions before the Sunderland full-back was turned too easily more than once, none more so than when Leroy Sane burned him for pace to score his side's clincher.
A decade in the world's richest league and Sunderland only had two players of any genuine quality on the pitch and it showed. Jordan Pickford and Jermain Defoe were the only true Premier League-calibre footballers on display for the home side. The rest either lack class, consistency or a winning mentality and right now a miracle escape from the drop engineered by just one of those three factors looks beyond the squad and their manager.
Here's how the national press reported Sunderland 0 v Manchester City 2.
So, is David Moyes still safe or does his job hang on the outcome of the Burnley game or is he here whatever the outcome of this season?
Moyes needs to be wary the month of March. The Black Cats have sacked two managers in this month in the past four years – Martin O’Neill and Gus Poyet.
And it looks grimmer this time around than previous months of March:
Sunderland have fewer points after 27 games than in any of their last four relegation battles. They remain bottom on just 19 points, six points adrift of safety.
The defeat leaves the Mackems six points adrift at the bottom of the Premier League table and looking a lost cause under the former Manchester United manager.
This chapter in the relegation battle had been written before the final game of the weekend as the safety zone already stretched a way off from the league's bottom team by the time Sunderland hosted Manchester City:
This had the feel of a significant weekend in Sunderland's bid for survival. It was not, however, the events of another predictable afternoon at the Stadium of Light which would appear to have sealed their fate.
Twenty-four hours earlier as the full-time results rolled in from the around the Premier League, David Moyes watched in anguish as relegation rivals Leicester, Swansea and Crystal Palace all won.
The significance is this - you can make a case for each of those clubs pulling clear of the drop zone in the coming months. Be it new managers, better players or a newfound momentum, there is reason to believe they will stay up. The same cannot be said of Sunderland.
And once the dust had settled on another defeat, and the Stadium of Light faithful had headed for home, all that remained was hope and a fading reassurance that Sunderland have survived when things have looked grimmer than this. Except it really never has been this grim:
Comparison with previous campaigns does not make for pleasant reading either. At this stage in the last four seasons their points tally has read; 23, 25, 25 and 29. And on each of those occasions they have gone on to survive by the narrowest of margins.
Sunderland may have started well and asked a few questions of Manchester City in the first half, but with one eye on a midweek trip to Stoke, Pep Guardiola's men did enough to wrap up the game by just past the hour mark and coast to full time:
This was little more than a routine exercise for a City team in this sort of form, the equivalent of asking an Olympic gymnast if they can manage a forward roll, and it is now six-wins in their past seven games.
The problem is, even when they have played well this season, Sunderland still tend to lose and the fact City scored with their first shot on target, three minutes before half time, sums up this campaign under David Moyes.
But, with 'winnable' games on the horizon, there is a crumb of comfort that the next three games on the calendar should not be as big an ask as facing an on-song Manchester City side:
The consolation for Sunderland, rooted to the bottom of the Premier League after this defeat, is that they will not face too many more assignments like this in their bid to avoid relegation. David Moyes’ team competed well for long periods, but they had no answer to some of Manchester City’s beguiling attacking play, which yielded goals for Sergio Agüero and Leroy Sané.
Sunderland will likely need a minimum of seven points from that trio of upcoming games to keep any sort of pace with the pack above. There is still hope, but right now it looks too big an ask. Wearside needs a hero and it needs a spark - is there anyone or anything out there who can breathe life into this terminal-looking Moyes season?