It was a routine day’s work for Manchester City as they played a really professional game away at the Stadium of Light to get the vital three points needed to stay in the title race, eight points behind leaders Chelsea.
Sunderland worked hard and harried City throughout the first half, and even had the better of the chances as Jermain Defoe hit the post, while Fabio Borini could not keep the follow-up on target.
City dug in though and after some excellent work from Yaya Toure and David Silva, Raheem Sterling was able to put in a great cross that Sergio Aguero dutifully put into the net. Sunderland were unable to keep up the intensity in the second half and the game was put to bed after Leroy Sane’s excellent shot went in off the post.
Here are four things we’ve learnt this weekend:
1. Chelsea can be caught
It is on days like this that the legitimacy of City’s title challenge is proved. Up against a stubborn team defending well, City have suffered draws in the past – notably against the likes of Middleborough, Everton and Southampton already this season. It could have gone the same way at the Stadium of Light, but the visitors showed good mental strength and await Chelsea’s result for this weekend.
2. Caballero is keeping the defence settled
City have kept three clean sheets in their last four Premier league games with Willy Caballero between the sticks and, while he has been helped by the defenders coming to terms with passing out from the back, he’s done a lot better than Claudio Bravo. He made vital saves with the score at 0-0 and at 1-0 to keep the pressure off in the match. He’s better at communicating with his defenders, too – telling them to keep their heads whenever they let Sunderland a sight at goal.
3. Winning is a habit
Pep Guardiola seems to have found a winning formula for City ever since the 4-0 defeat at Goodison Park in January, with lesser rotation and changes mainly being forced by injury, with the occasion rest given to overworked players. The team was facing a brave and strong Sunderland side who were great at pressing and making it uncomfortable. However, they refused to wilt and continued to probe patiently, winning fairly comfortably in the end.
4. Change is good, but heroes are that for a reason
While he has done well to bring out the best in new superstars like Sane, Sterling, John Stones and Kevin De Bruyne – who are all absolutely vital to the team – Guardiola still needs the old guard of Toure, Aguero and Silva. Toure was exceptional at Sunderland and his role in keeping possession in the midfield and excellent passing were on show in the build up to the first goal. Silva was great at pulling strings in the middle, the creative mind of the team on a day when De Bruyne was afforded a rest. Meanwhile, Aguero has done excellently to bounce back from his time away from the team and is playing at the level his manager want him to – he’s now got five goals and two assists in his last three games.
Written by Manan Monga
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