Monday 19 February 2018

Tevez off day sees luckless City fall to late Bent strike

Sunderland 1
Manchester City 0

Rob Stewart

IT IS on days like this, and at grounds such as the Stadium of Light, that Premier League titles are won and lost. That makes this a particularly chastening reality check for the title aspirations of Manchester City and particularly their captain, Carlos Tevez.

City suffered their first Premier League defeat to Sunderland in a decade in astonishing circumstances. Tevez was guilty of what could be the biggest miss of his career before Sunderland striker Darren Bent netted a penalty deep into stoppage time to compound his misery.

City may have spent £325m since their Middle Eastern takeover two years ago this week, but it would be almost impossible to put a price on the possible cost of Tevez's misjudgment, should his club end up missing out on the title by one or two points come next May.

"Football is very strange because we played fantastic football in the first half," said City manager Roberto Mancini. "We had three or four incredible chances but if you don't score, sometimes you can end up losing. This is football because every game is difficult.

"In the second half we were split into two or three units and it was too easy for Sunderland. It is important we understand why we lost. We can now know that every time we will find this situation where the other teams defend with 10 players behind the ball.''

Having put Liverpool to the sword at the beginning of the week, with two goals in City's 3-0 win at Eastlands, few would have bet against Tevez -- the scorer of 27 goals in his previous 28 starts -- maintaining his rich streak of form.

So when Yaya Toure powered forward after blocking Kieran Richardson's shot, following a Sunderland corner, and teed up Tevez with a square ball, it seemed normal service would be resumed.

However, Tevez somehow sidefooted over an open goal from eight yards out. The Argentine's look of disbelief said it all while Toure fell to the ground in disbelief.

"We rode our luck with the Tevez miss and I do not think he will ever miss a chance like that again, but we were due some luck," Sunderland manager Steve Bruce said.

Until half-time his side struggled to keep up with City despite the tenacious efforts of Lee Cattermole and Jordan Henderson and Mignolet denied Yaya Toure as Bruce's side toiled. "I don't think anyone would have expected us to lose at half-time," said Mancini, who said he did not know if there would be further transfer activity from City.

Sunderland certainly improved considerably after the break even though Bruce had to send on Danny Welbeck in place of Fraizer Campbell, who suffered knee ligament damage, and replace the injured Michael Turner with Phil Bardsley.

After the changes, Steed Malbranque was increasingly influential as City were pushed onto the back foot and Joe Hart suddenly became the busier of the two 'keepers, as enterprising Egyptian Ahmed Elmohamady tested him and Welbeck fired over.

While the pressure on his defence intensified, Sunderland's Titus Bramble repeatedly thwarted the tireless Tevez as he sought redemption.

It seemed, though, that substitute Adebayor would come to his captain's rescue. Micah Richards won James Milner's corner and the Togo forward flicked the ball goalwards only for Mignolet to save brilliantly 11 minutes from time.

Sunderland had been let off the hook again and this time Bent made sure that his team took maximum advantage in a dramatic finale, seemingly invigorated by Mignolet's exploits.

Elmohamady was allowed space down the right wing and his cross into the goalmouth prompted Micah Richards to wrestle Bent to the floor.

After referee Mike Dean pointed to the spot, Bent (left) got to his feet to beat Hart, despite a poorly struck penalty. Hart dived over the ball to concede City's first goal for nine hours.

"It was such a bad pen, he will not be taking any more," Bruce smiled. Bruce, who is now ready to secure the services of Ghana international Asamoah Gyan from Rennes and revive his pursuit of Wigan's Charles N'Zogbia, put into perspective the challenge facing City.

"Man City have catapulted into a different league and you wouldn't have thought that two years ago Man City would be going for the championship."

"The crowd play their part because we are playing a top team and they cheer every challenge and that is what City will have to live with over the next few months," added Bruce. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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