Former Manchester United defender Phil Bardsley was the unlikely hero as his first-half strike claimed another huge Barclays Premier League win for Sunderland, as Manchester City were beaten 1-0 at the Stadium of Light.
Despite Gus Poyet's side's torrid start to the season, their latest scalp after the Tyne-Wear derby win secured a fourth straight single-goal victory over City, whose struggles away from the Etihad Stadium continue.
Manuel Pellegrini made five changes to the team that gave a five-goal, five-star UEFA Champions League performance against CSKA Moscow on Tuesday, while there were just two changes to Poyet’s 11 that beat Southampton in the Capital One Cup on Wednesday with Steven Fletcher and Sebastien Larsson making their returns.
Larsson was lucky to stay on the field, as his dangerous studs-up challenge on the ankle of Javi Garcia was deemed not even worthy of a yellow card from referee Mike Dean.
Still with 11 men, Sunderland took advantage on 21 minutes as another former Red and man-of-the-match Wes Brown sent a long ball forward, which was latched onto by Bardsley.
A lapse in defence between James Milner and Martin Demicheles allowed the full-back time to cut back onto his right foot and finish brilliantly beyond Costel Pantilimon.
This was the first goal the Romanian had conceded since replacing Joe Hart between the posts, but his side should have drawn level as Sergio Aguero nodded Aleksandar Kolarov’s cross wide from six yards out.
Bardsley then displayed his defensive duties well early in the second half, as he blocked substitute Jesus Navas’ shot on the line from Aguero’s cutback.
At the other end, Ki Sung-Yueng almost grabbed his first goal for the Black Cats as he fired a 25-yard effort narrowly wide of Pantilimon’s goal.
Aguero and substitute Edin Dzeko drew good saves out of Vito Mannone as the hosts withstood City’s pressure.
Dzeko nodded wide again soon after, and Kolarov fizzed a shot just off target as Sunderland held on for another huge win.
City’s form on the road is a major cause for concern which will need to be addressed by Pellegrini, with just four points from their opening six away fixtures so far this season.
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