Monday 27 February 2017

Mauling enough to drive Quinn to drink

MAN CITY 5
SUNDERLAND 0

Tim Rich

David Silva scores Manchester City's third goal against Sunderland yesterday. Photo: Laurence Griffiths / Getty Images
David Silva scores Manchester City's third goal against Sunderland yesterday. Photo: Laurence Griffiths / Getty Images

UsingG all of his considerable charm, Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn has tried to persuade supporters on Wearside that it is better to go to matches than watch them in pubs.

Quinn made the journey to Manchester yesterday, but those who had crammed the hostelries in Roker and Seaburn would barely have had time to let their first pint of Guinness settle before realising they were watching a hopeless cause. And, if they remained to the end, they would have wanted whiskey or maybe absinthe.

While Quinn frets over Sunderland's decline, just two days after admitting to uncertainty over his future at City, Roberto Mancini can perhaps begin to sleep a little easier and look forward to unlocking the door to the Aladdin's Cave of Champions League riches at Eastlands.

Having masterminded City's biggest league victory of the season, not only are the Italian's players now firmly in control of their European destiny this season, even the brooding Mario Balotelli left the pitch with a smile on his face.

With a run of one victory in four Premier League games prior to the international break causing City to slide towards a do-or-die battle with Tottenham for the fourth and final Champions League qualification berth, the prospects facing Mancini should he oversee a second successive fifth-placed finish were appearing bleak.

However, the doubt and uncertainty were blown away as five different goalscorers earned the victory that lifted City six points clear of Tottenham and even took Mancini's team ahead of Chelsea into third place.

Had Balotelli's injury-time free kick not been saved spectacularly by Simon Mignolet, Mancini would have been rewarded with his biggest victory as City manager, but the points and performance were reward enough.

"It was important to win this game, for many reasons," he said. "We have gone into third position, are closer to Arsenal and Chelsea are now behind us.

Confidence

"The confidence from this victory is important, but we have to continue and win at Liverpool next Monday. It was a big result, but a big weekend? That will be when we win something."

Winning the FA Cup -- which would be one step nearer if they overcome Manchester United in the semi-final on April 16 -- yet finishing fifth would leave Mancini under threat of the sack, if only because of the desperation of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan to see his team earn membership of Europe's platinum club in the Champions League.

But this victory against a woeful Sunderland team -- who have now gone 439 minutes without a goal -- has strengthened City's hand substantially in terms of achieving their priority target.

Not only did City win, they did so with style and flair, and United manager Alex Ferguson, on a scouting trip in the directors' box, will have taken note.

This was not the City team afflicted by fatigue who had threatened to stumble into fifth place prior to the international break. From the moment that Adam Johnson opened the scoring following a mazy run after nine minutes, it was obvious that Sunderland would offer little resistance.

Five minutes later, City were 2-0 ahead after referee Howard Webb had awarded a penalty following Phil Bardsley's clumsy challenge on Carlos Tévez.

The Argentinian forward, who had not scored in the league since a hat-trick against West Brom on February 5, converted the penalty, although Mignolet almost saved the City captain's shot.

Sunderland, who defeated City at the Stadium of Light in August, were dismal and striker Asamoah Gyan displayed none of the endeavour that was a highlight of his goalscoring performance for Ghana against England in midweek.

But City's victory was down to their performance rather than Sunderland's failings and three goals in 10 second-half minutes from David Silva, Patrick Vieira and Yaya Toure completed their biggest victory since defeating Burnley 6-1 at Turf Moor, a year ago to the day. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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