Monday 23 March 2009

Manchester City 1-0 Sunderland

A goal from man of the match defender Micah Richards was enough for Manchester City to beat a 10-man Sunderland side at Eastlands.

Sunderland's George McCartney was shown a red card early in the game after beign adjudged to have held Shaun Wright-Phillips back in the penalty area.

Minutes later Steed Malbranque hauled Richards down in the box but Robinho failed to net the resulting penalty, with Martin Fulop saving comfortably.

City had plenty of chances to take the lead, but it was the impressive Richards who broke the deadlock, heading home from Elano's free-kick.

It was the home side that started the brightest and the in-form Wright-Phillips almost gave Mark Hughes' side the lead after a delightful ball from Valeri Bojinov, but his shot went just wide.

Wright-Phillips broke with pace down the right again but this time it seemed that Sunderland defender McCartney had held him back. Referee Steve Tanner immediately consulted his linesman to obtain a better perspective of the incident, and decided to issue McCartney with a red card.

Sunderland, down to 10 men, then suffered another set-back when Malbranque fouled Richards in the area. Tanner awarded City with a penalty, but Robinho failed to convert, opting to try to trick Fulop. Instead, the tame effort almost rolled into Fulop's arms.

Sunderland coped well with the loss of McCartney and limited City to lofting hopeful through-balls over the midfield- a tactic that didn't pay off. Ricky Sbragia's side remained resolute and strong against a City side that looked tired following the drama of their Thursday night UEFA Cup penalty shoot-out.

City did always pose a threat and on 50 minutes the break-through came. Elano's free kick fell to Richards, who out-jumped Anton Ferdinand and headed the ball home for his first goal since 2006. Mark Hughes' side nearly doubled their lead when Richards found Elano but his effort went inches agonisingly past the post.

Shay Given was rarely called into action but it was Richard Dunne who prevented Andy Reid from netting an equaliser, making a superb block tackle just as Reid was about to strike at goal from a dangerous range.

City needed a second goal to calm the nerves, but shots from Elano and Robinho forced Fulop into making superb saves. Although, it was a game where City had to grind the result out against a Sunderland side heading towards a relegation battle.

The result leaves City in 10th spot in the Premier League on 38 points heading into the international break. Up next is Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium...

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