I remember leaving the Stadium of Light after this defeat for Sam Allardyce strangely positive about our chances of survival in the Premier League this season.
Sunderland had struggled immensely up until this point - with Big Sam finally being drafted into the club to deal with the mess left behind by Dick Advocaat’s abrupt departure.
In truth, the club was a mixture of four different managers that resulted in a squad that lacked discipline and any semblance of cohesion. For this reason, it was necessary for the club to buy in January - and it was this spending spree that sparked the hope amongst myself and many others after this game.
There were four new signings in this window - Wahbi Khazri, Lamine Kone, Jan Kirchhoff and Dame N’Doye - and all played their part in turning around our fortunes.
Kirchhoff arrived from Bayern Munich with a glowing reference ability wise but was hampered by an injury record that, in fairness, took him on a path to the Stadium of Light. In our defeat to Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City on this day back in 2016, he bossed a midfield where he was coming up against some of the leagues best in the shape of Fernandinho and Yaya Toure.
This would have been surprising in most circumstances, but following a strange debut in a 4-1 loss at Spurs, Kirchhoff was taken out of the squad completely for the home draw against Bournemouth that followed. So it’s fair to say expectation was low coming into the fixture against City.
Lamine Kone also stood out in this game. Sunderland were conceding goals for fun but he looked solid here in keeping out Man City’s potent attack bar the solitary goal from Sergio Aguero. His physicality and strength was summarised by his crunching tackle on Toure that was cheered as loud as a goal would have been.
That partnership with John O’Shea at the back with Kirchhoff screening them in front looked promising and on the day, Sunderland’s performance was admirable. They fought like a team united in their task of trying to survive - with a sprinkle of quality too.
The first half goal for Aguero was a sucker punch for the Lads as they were holding strong against a talented Man City side who just discovered their manager Manuel Pellegrini was due to be replaced by Pep Guardiola.
After going behind, Sunderland matched the away side with Big Sam impressed with how things were shaping up, saying it was the “best performance since I’ve been here”.
Sunderland had chances, both Jermain Defoe and Billy Jones came close to gaining us a point, but despite the defeat the fans could at least feel there was the spirit and belief in the side as we made it a frantic finale.
Otamendi brilliantly blocked an N’Doye effort before clearing from the line in the closing stages but alas, it wasn’t to be.
As it turned out, this was the beginning of a solid part of the season. Big Sam worked his magic, along with a little help from a certain Jermain Defoe to keep us in the Premier League another season - which gave us all hope for the future... we’ll leave this here.
Tuesday 2nd February 2016
Barclays Premier League
Sunderland 0-1 Manchester City
Sunderland: Mannone, Jones, Kone, O’Shea, van Aanholt, Kirchhoff, Cattermole (Johnson), M’Vila, Lens (Khazri), Borini (N’Doye), Defoe Substitutes not used: Pickford, Yedlin, Brown, Watmore
Manchester City: Hart, Sagna, Clichy, Fernandinho, Otamendi, Demichelis, Navas (Sterling), Toure (Kolarov), Aguero, Iheanacho (Fernando), Silva Substitutes not used: Caballero, Zabaleta, Barker, Celina