City cruise past brittle Sunderland
Manchester City 4-1 Sunderland
On such occasions, Manchester City have no need for Pep Guardiola. When Sunderland are so abject, it is tempting to wonder if even the most coveted manager in Europe could save them.
While Sam Allardyce was parachuted in as a relegation firefighter, he seemed confronted with a blazing inferno and armed only with a glass of water.
For the second successive week, Sunderland were beaten by the time latecomers were just taking their seats. Just as they represented ideal opposition for a Chelsea team flirting with a rare entry into the relegation zone, their visit to the Etihad Stadium proved timely for a City side who had lost three of their previous five league games. Yet whatever their problems elsewhere, they remain formidable opponents on their own turf. This was a 10th win in 11 home games, and they have plundered 38 goals in that time.
Few were easier than these four. City's passage to victory was eased although, with Kevin de Bruyne in this form, they needed little assistance.
The Belgian scored one goal and made two more. Midway through his debut campaign in Manchester, his tally stands at 10 goals and as many assists. Few are as productive. Manuel Pellegrini can be grateful for his potency.
The spectre of Guardiola looms large over the Chilean, but he is not the most beleaguered manager in Manchester right now. An increasingly troubled Allardyce had changed goalkeeper, bringing in Vito Mannone. It made a negligible difference; the Italian, who conceded four goals to City on his only previous appearance this season, let in four more. He was rendered helpless by the inadequacy of Sunderland's defending.
Allardyce had abandoned a back five midway through the first half at Chelsea last week. Selecting a back four proved no more successful. They were two goals behind after 13 minutes at Stamford Bridge and three adrift after 22 at the Etihad Stadium.
City's opener was doubly damning from a Sunderland perspective. After Aleksandar Kolarov over-hit a cross, De Bruyne was left unattended to collect it. The Belgian centred and Raheem Sterling, the smallest man in the penalty area, rose above Billy Jones to head in.
Then Yaya Toure scored his second goal in as many games, spinning away from Jordi Gomez to drill in a 20-yard shot.
City's third bore certain similarities to the first. De Bruyne was again the supplier as another right-wing cross was converted. This time it was a free kick and Wilfried Bony was the beneficiary, leaping above John O'Shea to score his seventh goal in 11 games. He ought to have had an eighth, but skied a second-half penalty after Sebastian Coates fouled David Silva.
While Pellegrini swapped his strikers and saw the understudy score, it reduced Bony's case to say his point had been proven. The Ivorian was aggrieved to be benched at Arsenal on Monday when a semi-fit Sergio Aguero began the game.
The Argentinian was not needed yesterday. Supplier turned scorer when De Bruyne added City's fourth, even if his initial intention was to record a hat-trick of assists. After combining with the ever influential Silva, he tried to find Bony. The hapless Jones slid in and only succeeding in redirecting the ball back to De Bruyne, who slotted a shot past Mannone.
Sunderland did manage to reduce the deficit. Fabio Borini is becoming a specialist in consolation goals. After scoring one at Chelsea seven days earlier, he recorded another, intercepting Lee Cattermole's scuffed shot and after Joe Hart saved his initial effort, finishing off the rebound.
City still have not kept a clean sheet without Vincent Kompany in the team, and the captain's comeback was aborted. Nine minutes after coming on, he limped off again.
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