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Ji whiz: South Korean hits last-gasp winner to stun sloppy City

Martin O'Neill, the maker of teams and dreams, is not a man to shout the odds but the chances of Blackburn Rovers, Aston Villa and his Sunderland side all winning their games against the elite on this crazy Premier League weekend was 2,365/1.

Such a long shot came in through a short-range shot from Ji Dong-Won, eliciting a roar that shook the Stadium of Light to its very rafters.

To guard against being late, O'Neill keeps his wrist-watch 10 minutes fast but Sunderland's timing was spot-on here. Manchester City had no time to respond.

The visitors departed enraged, rightly arguing that the South Korean was offside, but their defence was over-run because not enough players had tracked back when Sunderland broke.

This was a poor performance and even poorer result for City, who are stuttering at the wrong time.

Manchester United and Chelsea, both vanquished on what Sky would doubtless call Shocker Saturday, must have felt reprieved. Roberto Mancini must lift his players quickly to face Liverpool tomorrow.

City's manager has so much quality to call on but what Sunderland possessed yesterday was a richness of purpose. Stricken with illness and injury, Sunderland were defiance and discipline personified. Patched up but fired up, they showed great resolve from back to front.

Simon Mignolet, who was not expected back for a fortnight, played with a mask protecting his broken nose after Keiren Westwood succumbed to 'flu.

Seb Larsson, bed-ridden on Saturday, shook off duvet and virus to report for duty, knowing his team were short of numbers.

A pride in the shirt and a desire to play for O'Neill was seen everywhere, even out of position. Two midfielders excelled at full-back, Craig Gardner on the right and Jack Colback on the left.

John O'Shea will have delighted his old United team-mates with his resilience at centre-half, while Matt Kilgallon, who had not played for Sunderland in 18 months, stepped in early when Wes Brown's groin went and stood firm alongside O'Shea in repelling City. On the left of midfield, former Derry City ace James McClean worked overtime on his full debut, covering back and occasionally darting down the line.

Players threw themselves into blocks, closed down anyone in sky blue, refusing to yield ground. Even Nicklas Bendtner, hardly renowned for tackling, knocked over Nigel de Jong, who responded by bursting out laughing.

City's tough midfielder was cautioned early on for clattering Lee Cattermole, who probably wore the bruise as a badge of honour.

Of all the praise being showered on O'Neill's players, Cattermole deserves most. Sunderland's captain was immense, disciplined in seeking the ball and sensible in re-distributing it.

Sunderland had determination on their side -- and Lady Luck.

When Sergio Aguero's shot was blocked in the third minute of injury-time, Larsson strode upfield with the ball, exploiting unguarded space. The Swede could have headed to the corner flag, running down the clock and ensuring the point, but O'Neill waved him on.

McClean took over, gaining ground down the left before Ji exchanged passes with Stephane Sessegnon, a real spinning-top of a threat all afternoon.

Sessegnon's return ball was teased through the middle, placed past Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott, for Ji to run on to. Although Gareth Barry had dropped deep, the Englishman still held the line and Ji was offside.

O'Neill ruminated afterwards on the word "marginally'' but marginally is still off. The flag stayed down, however, and Ji, calmly rounded Joe Hart, stroked the ball home to send the Sunderland fans into dreamland and O'Neill leaping around like Tigger after too much caffeine.

Anger swept the opposing dugout. Mancini was livid, immediately disappearing down the tunnel, not waiting for the coup de grace of the final whistle which blew moments later.

Rarely has the Italian looked so furious. The scarf was off, the tie was off and the gloves were certainly off. It is fair to say that he expressed his emotions forcefully to his chastened players afterwards.

The offside was annoying enough but what most maddened Mancini was the failure of certain players to cover back when Sunderland countered.

City had enough chances to win, but they lacked a cutting edge. Edin Dzeko was disappointing. Ditto Samir Nasri. The only players to emerge with reputations enhanced were Yaya Toure, again a powerhouse through the middle, and Hart, who had begun the game with a magnificent save to deny Bendtner.

Adam Johnson soon looked lively against the team his family supports, unleashing a shot that skimmed the roof of the net.

Johnson then set up a chance for Dzeko that drew a good save from Mignolet before Sunderland's 'keeper was then relieved to see another Dzeko shot hit the crossbar. Mancini (pictured left) sighed.

After emerging early for the second half, Mancini filled in a couple of minutes dealing with autograph requests from Sunderland fans before turning to a more significant signing of his. Aguero removed his tracksuit top and bobble hat and came on, soon followed by David Silva.

Aguero went close but so did Sunderland, Sessegnon snaking a right-footed shot wide when the angle cried out for an attempt with his left.

Still Sunderland continued to thwart City. Gardner put in a great tackle on Pablo Zabaleta and then dispossessed Aguero.

This was now a siege, Micah Richards even hitting the bar with a header.

The home supporters relished this, chanting: "We are Sunderland" relentlessly, and unleashing that unbelievable roar when Ji struck. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent