HALCYON DIGEST: Manchester City 4-3 Sunderland, December 2009

When Manchester City welcomed Sunderland to the Etihad Stadium just over six years ago it was a crazy affair. With speculation rife before the game that then City boss, Mark Hughes, was set for the sack regardless of the result that was to follow, one could reasonably expect to there to be some drama ahead. What followed, though, surely can’t have been envisaged by many, if at all, anyone.

Manchester City's Welsh manager Mark Hug

If there was ever a game that was more symptomatic of Hughes’ time at the club it was rather fitting, in many ways, that it was his last. Seven goals, one red card and an ominous wave goodbye later and it was clear that the manager was on his bike. Despite City earning the three points on the day the haphazard nature of the breathless 4-3 victory had rightly set alarm bells ringing in the corridors of power at City and, with the beauty of hindsight, the manner of the performance only strengthened their case for a managerial change.

Manchester City's Chief Executive Garry

After being thoroughly embarrassed by Spurs at White Hart Land the week before Hughes made two changes to the side for the visit of Sunderland. In came Craig Bellamy and Roque Santa Cruz for Emmanuel Adebayor and Robinho. Strangely enough the two players brought into the side were representative of all that what was positive about City’s performance. Indeed, the Blues found themselves two goals to the good after just 12 minutes thanks to Santa Cruz, netting his first City goal, and then Carlos Tevez, converting a spot kick after Bellamy was fouled.

12 minutes later with only 24 minutes on the clock Sunderland were level. Some atrocious defending, which had been a theme of City’s season thus far, came back to haunt them as John Mensah was able to head in completely unmarked before Jordan Henderson capitalised on a scuffed Kolo Toure clearance to equalise.

Manchester City v Sunderland - Premier League

City went into half time ahead thanks to Bellamy converting coolly after collecting a Wright-Phillips cross on the edge of the area. If the fans at the ground were expecting a less eventful half after the break they would soon realise that they were mistaken as the game continued in a similar fashion upon resumption. Determined to get something from the game the Mackems put City under considerable pressure. That pressure eventually told when Kenwyne Jones headed in Henderson’s cross.

Manchester City's English midfielder Gar

Typically, City soon regained the lead after Santa Cruz poked in Barry’s cross for the seventh goal of the afternoon. Thankfully, that was the last goal of the game but there was still time for some late drama when Sunderland’s Michael Turner was shown a straight red card for elbowing Barry. Hull manager, Steve Bruce, later described the sending off as “obscene”.

After a breathless 90 minutes with on-lookers’ nerves in shreds the final whistle blew. With the rumour mill grinding throughout the day, Mark Hughes ominously waved to the crowd as he headed down the tunnel for, what turned out to be, the final time. A few hours later the official announcement was made bringing Hughes 18 months at City to an end.

Manchester City v Sunderland - Premier League

City XI: Given, Richards (Zabaleta), Onuoha, Sylvinho, Kolo Toure, Ireland, Wright-Phillips (Kompany), Barry, Santa Cruz, Tevez, Bellamy (Petrov)

Subs Not Used: Taylor, Weiss, Robinho, Adebayor

On this day, Lady Gaga was sitting at the top of the UK Singles Chart with Bad Romance.

Meanwhile, Avatar was on the screens at UK cinemas.

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Written by Rob Toole

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