The 1-1 draw with City clearly showed two things: Sunderland without Kenwynne Jones are only half the team that they are with him, during the second half without Jones, “The Lads” were totally toothless in attack. Mancini has much more tactical nous than Steve Bruce.
It did not take Mancini more than a few minutes to realise that Sunderland did not actually have anyone on the pitch who could attack down either wing, so, halfway through the first half he took off England cry-off full back Wayne Bridge and replaced him with centre-forward Santa – Cruz. Then, in the second half, when it was obvious that playing without a full back on one side was not causing his defense any particular problems, Mancini took off his other England international full-back Richards and replaced him with Viera.
Despite City not having a full back on the field Sunderland did not once launch an attack down either wing.
Throughout the first half Sunderland harried and chased down everything, not allowing City any freedom to settle and play football, and were well worth their half-time lead. A superb, pin-point cross from the rejuvenated Malbranque onto the head of Jones resulted in a powerful, accurate header placed wide of Given.
The second half was a different story with Sunderland on the back foot and defending desperately. As is their habit when defending a one goal lead Sunderland dropped deeper and deeper, yielding the initiative to City, to the extent that in the 92nd minute when a City corner was half-cleared to Adam Johnson just inside the 18 yard box, the entire Sunderland team was “defending” in the six yard box.
By the time anyone got far enough out to close Johnson down it was too late and he had curled a glorious shot into the top corner of the goal.
All in all a draw was a fair result, and before the game 40 000 Sunderland fans would have happily accepted a draw, but Sunderland threw it away.
Heineken Football Fiesta
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