Soapbox on Manchester City – and doing Sir Alex a favour

Nearly the double but not quite. If Tuesday’s FA Cup exit was a disappointment for the worst of reasons, then this was one for the best. It’s never satisfactory to see a two goal cushion go in the blinking of an eye, but at least Pete Sixsmith witnessed it, unlike the Man City fans who have learned nothing from the play off final against Gillingham in 1999. In a week where partnerships have been the subject of discussion on the site it was a Scandinavian duo that almost brought home the processed pig meat …

One of the rambling conversations on Salut! Sunderland this week was about double acts, with Mike and Bernie Winters being mentioned as the unlikeliest comedy duo imaginable.

Take that a step further and you would have had the unlikeliest double of the season had we managed to hold on at Eastlands on Saturday and get the win that our superb performance so thoroughly deserved.

With five minutes to go and the City fans trickling out of the stadium, it looked as if the fortuitous winner that Ji Dong-Won had grabbed at the Stadium in January, was going to be joined by cracking goals from Seb Larsson and Nicholas Bendtner, as we took 6 points off Abu Dhabi Rovers and handed the title to Old Trafford on a plate.

Alas, it was not to be. The physical tiredness of two games in a week and the mental tiredness that comes with the high intensity game that Martin O’Neill plays, meant that we allowed the wonderfully high standards that we had set for 85 minutes to slip, enabling a ponderous and argumentative City side to grab an undeserved and, when the season is eventually weighed in, futile point.

This was the complete antithesis of Tuesday night’s disappointing performance. Once again, the tackling was crisp, the passing was sharp and the movement was fluid. We looked like a Martin O’Neill team as we showed the world that there is considerable depth in the EPL and that title contenders have to do a lot more than just turn up and go through the motions to win.

Defensively, we looked sound, with Matt Kilgallon surely doing enough to show to MON that he has a considerable role to play as a Sunderland player over the next few years. He is quick, strong and brave and like O’Shea, complements his defensive partner, Michael Turner, very well.

No Wayne Bridge , so Jack Colback reprised his defensive role as successfully as he had on New Year’s Day, reading the game well and snuffing out James Milner easily. Milner was eventually withdrawn and looked well miffed as he slumped onto the bench. Colback for England perhaps?

The midfield controlled the game and all four of them looked far more comfortable against the lumbering City giants than they did against the nippy Everton duo of Cahill and Osman. Larsson in particular was full of energy and running and his ability to get himself into the right position at the right time was reflected in the two very good goals that he scored.

Cattermole was an outstanding, leading the team well, sitting deep and breaking up the insipid City attacks and generally making football look an easy game. He was joined by Gardner, a player who was pilloried on message boards on Wednesday morning, in a central midfield that made the much vaunted Yaya Toure and David Silva look like candidates for a start in Darlington ’s next game – always assuming that Darlo would want them.

But the jewels in our crown were the front two. Sess was probably the man of the match. All three goals came from his intelligent passing and City never once got to grips with him. Wherever he went, he caused them problems and his unselfish play turns us from being a good team into becoming almost an outstanding one. MON must be desperate for him to stay next season and take us to that next level.

Another who may well be wanted for 2012-13 is Nicklas Bendtner. He gave a fine exhibition of centre forward play, scored a wonderful header from Sessegnon’s pinpoint cross and set up what really should have been the winning goal for Seb Larsson. He led the line well throughout and never looked less than the outstanding centre forward he apparently believes himself to be. I have enjoyed watching him this season – a far better player than Bent, Jones or Gyan in my opinion.

Jake almost feels he's there ...

So, why did we let it slip? It certainly wasn’t due to any scintillating play from City who played like a team of plodding pachyderms throughout. The best you can say is that they kept on plugging away, showing little imagination until Balotelli produced a fizzer with 5 minutes left. That we then allowed our concentration to wander and let in Kolarov for an undeserved equaliser is something that I cannot explain.

Maybe replacing Kilgallon, who looked utterly exhausted, with Kyrgiakos upset the balance at the back. Maybe City replacing the totally ineffective Milner with the fresh legs and ideas of Pizarro gave them a boost. Maybe we were just knackered after Tuesday. Whatever, it deprived us of a famous win and we lost out at the end as we had at The Sports Direct Arena. Blast!!

Of course, we could have been 3-0 up as the penalty that Balotelli ( a man who seems to have watched Kevin and Perry so much that he has morphed into the Harry Enfield character) scored, was, to say the least, dubious. I can understand why Phil Dowd gave it – Dzeko went down over Gardner ’s outstretched leg and he (Dowd) had a split second to see it.

However, Dzeko bought the penalty. He pushed the ball past Gardner and our player was unable to get his leg out of the way. Down went the Bosnian – not a dive, but a fall that was guaranteed to get a spot kick. Clearly, their players are given instructions to do this as The Sulking One did it himself later on. On the other hand, we are naïve and not as well versed in these dark arts – yet.

The last five minutes almost spoiled a grand day. Good company on the coach, a breakfast in Uppermill made up of locally sourced food (the bacon was as good as any I have ever eaten), a hack around the country lanes and a pint of Saddleworth Mild in The Church Inn set me up for another fine Sunderland performance from players who are willing to squeeze the maximum out of themselves for Martin O’Neill.

We are now an established PL side and relegation fears are banished for the foreseeable future. Our manager has an understanding of what the club can do and where it can go. We can sit back and enjoy Stephane Sessegnon, James McClean and Nicklas Bendtner, knowing that we can play a major part in deciding who goes down and who wins the league – although I think that our stunning performance at Eastlands has already done that.

Ha’way The Lads

9 thoughts on “Soapbox on Manchester City – and doing Sir Alex a favour”

  1. You know , no matter how well we play , how good our results are , there are still folks moaning and critiscising .

  2. JB, have we had a lot of late goals scored against us? I think this season we’ve scored late on to scupper others. Thinking of Blackburn and Man city (Ji). I remember the Arsenal game when Henry scored, but not many more.
    In the past, 5-6 yrs ago, then the last ten minutes were always the most nail-biting for S’land fans.
    Playing teams like Arsenal and Man City you are required to run a lot more and expend that energy. So the last ten mins are always going to be the hardest against those teams.
    But, I think only 3 or 4 top teams have the quality of player who can pull it out of their locker to score out of absolutely nothing. Man city being one of them.

  3. I’m concerned about the late goals we are conceding which has cost us a lot of points. Its OK MON putting it down to fatigue but we have three subs which could bolster things in the last 20 mins.MON seems reluctant to use them, in particular the third sub who wasn’t used in either the Everton or City games. Bearing in mind we were losing v Everton a fresh pair of legs could have made a difference. I only have two complaints against MON, his reluctance to use all his subs and his gung-ho policy when we are losing of taking off full backs .Otherwise we look a much better Sunderland team than I’ve seen for a long time.

  4. Stunning Sunderland gave probably their best performance of the season against the richest club in world football at a juncture in the season when even many of their own supporters were wondering whether their generally heroic efforts since MON took over had ‘hit the wall’ as they say in marathon terms. After an uncharacteristically flat display against Everton in their FA Cup quarter final replay four days previously, City away, with their one hundred per cent league home points tally, hardly looked like the best place to go to restore wounded pride. But for long periods of the game, the roaring Wearsiders did their club and their loyal, vociferous travelling support very proud indeed. The performances of Kilgallon and Colback in a makeshift back four were a highlight and had they both played against Everton earlier in the week, could the outcome have been different? Larsson, who has looked jaded of late, was superb and whilst indeed every player did his bit, there has to be special mentions also for Bendtner, who played a perfect centre forward’s role and grabbed another excellent headed goal, and for Sessegnon who is as good as any player in the Premier League on current form and on the day was head and shoulders above anything City had to offer including the often mercurial Silva who is an undoubted world class player. Well done lads, it’s clearly not all over just yet and taking four points from six against the moneybags of Manchester this season is further proof of SAFC’s progress under a manager who gives us our best chance in recent memory of achieving things that not long ago looked unrealistic. The real beauty of the performance against City was that it was not a backs to the wall affair and that we were truly the better side over the 90 minutes and some of our football was as good as anything witnessed in the top flight this term.

  5. Ian makes an interesting comment about our centre backs. I think we easily need at least four of them. At their ages – and looking back at their histories – Brown and O’Shea will probably only ever average half the games. That leaves plenty of room for a re-invigorated Kilgallon.

  6. Repeated from the Man City ‘Who are You?’ – – (from Rick, the NE-based City fan who provided the answers) …

    Well, I said if Sunderland parked the bus, they would lose. All credit then that you came to the Etihad and played attractive flowing football, and probably deserved more than just 1 point.
    Good luck for the rest of the season and make sure you finish above the barcodes.

  7. I’m no fan of mega-rich City or players like Tevez in particular, but it would be nice to see ManU humbled once in a while.
    I like Roberto Mancini, so I think it’s for his sake too I’d like to see them win.
    Remember ManU have to come to the SOL last game of the season. Thats not going to be easy for them.
    I agree with the comments about Kilgallon. I think he should start ahead of Kyriagos. But when Brown comes back there’ll probably be too much competition. Pity, I think he’s got potential in the PL.

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