City too slick and quick for Sunderland
Moneybags City bounce back in explosive style against lowly Black Cats
(Ola Toivonen 83)
MAN CITY 4
(Sergio Aguero 9-pen, Kevin de Bruyne 25, Vito Mannone 33-og, Raheem Sterling 36)
REPORTING FROM THE UK
Devastation was the order of business at the Stadium of Light yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Manchester City did more than just glow in the dark against Sunderland - they dazzled.
Many would struggle to envisage how this match-up contested the League Cup final two seasons ago.
A swarm of fluorescent shirts dominated an action-packed 45 minutes that was largely unreciprocated after the interval. It was perhaps for the best; Roger East's half-time whistle felt like an act of humanity.
That Sunderland stunned both City and the onlookers at Wembley 18 months ago with an early strike, only to be downed by a second-half fightback, seems almost incomprehensible now.
Their respective evolutions have intertwined in a classic tale of the haves and the have-nots.
City's financial muscle has rendered any semblance of a weakened side virtually obsolete. But, at a cumulative cost of £247.7 million ($540m), their starting line-up was still hardly one thrown together with the sole remit of making up the numbers.
Consolidating their English Premier League lead and defying their previous record in the Champions League are arguably greater priorities than the League Cup.
But, on the back of successive defeats, Manuel Pellegrini persisted with seven of the personnel that began in the reversal to West Ham United last week.
The results was typically explosive; typically City.
From the onset, the EPL leaders took the fight to the league's basement dwellers. Sergio Aguero's ninth-minute penalty set the tone for a game that was all over bar the shouting by the half-hour.
Fabio Borini will argue that his disallowed equaliser, ruled out for a foul on Nicolas Otamendi after the pair collided, was contentious.
In truth, it would only have accelerated City's offensive, eventually stirred after Ola Toivoien threatened Willy Caballero's goal.
The response was emphatic. Kevin de Bruyne notched his second goal in as many games as a drilled shot beat Vito Mannone at his near post. Dick Advocaat, himself a former Belgium manager, may have been forewarned of his threat but his Sunderland side were hardly forearmed.
Raheem Sterling's chance to become a provider turned poacher required a hand of fortune from Mannone, who inadvertently guided the ball home after it had cannoned back off his right-hand post.
Little assistance or dispute was required for City's fourth; Sterling's in his own right. De Bruyne, ironically putting the hosts to the sword as his former club Wolfsburg received a 5-1 thrashing by a Robert Lewandowski-inspired Bayern Munich, returned Sterling's compliment with a simple pass that set him and City on their way into the last 16 of the competition.
As the home fans streamed for the exits, the Stadium of Light became increasingly cavernous for its tenants. This was the third home loss for the Black Cats this season.
For City, to lose one game was misfortune, two appeared to be careless. At the third time of asking, they appear to have finally rediscovered their swagger.
BY THE NUMBERS: 16
Manchester City have scored in 16 straight away League Cup games, a run stretching back to 2003/04.
- Reading 1 Everton 2
- Aston Villa 1 Birmingham 0
- Fulham 0 Stoke 1
- Hull 1 Swansea 0
- Leicester 2 West Ham 1 (aet)
- Middlesbrough 3 Wolves 0
- Preston North End 2 Bournemouth 2 (aet, Bournemouth win 3-2 on penalties)
Pellegrini happy to stop the rot
Manuel Pellegrini was a happy man after seeing Manchester City bounce back from successive defeats to dump Sunderland out of the League Cup after launching a first-half blitz.
City, who were beaten by Juventus in the Champions League and West Ham in the English Premier League in the space of five days last week, raced into a 4-0 lead inside 36 minutes at the Stadium of Light on their way to a 4-1 third-round win.
It was the perfect response for Pellegrini, who fielded a strong side despite missing eight senior men through injury.
He said: "Really, it was important to win the way we did today because we have just come from two important defeats, one in the Champions League and the other in the Premier League, so it was important to start this League Cup in the way that we did in the first half.
"It's important to win. Maybe we didn't deserve to lose the two games that we lost, but we did, so it was important not to continue in that sense."
Sunderland's fate was decided inside 26 first-half minutes as a Sergio Aguero penalty, Kevin de Bruyne's strike, a Vito Mannone own goal and Raheem Sterling's 36th-minute effort gave the visitors an unassailable lead.
The home side felt Patrick van Aanholt's challenge on Jesus Navas which led to the spot-kick might have been outside the area and were aggrieved to see a Fabio Borini equaliser chalked off for a foul on Nicolas Otamendi, but ultimately Ola Toivonen's 83rd-minute consolation header was all they had to show for their efforts.
Aguero, de Bruyne and Sterling, who cost a combined total of around £140 million ($304m), were simply irresistible, although Pellegrini was unwilling to label them the best front three in the country.
He said: "We will see. We have a lot of games to play in the league. They are very good players and at the end of the season, we will see which are the best players in the league.
"It's important now to be focusing game-by-game and not to think about individual players."
His opposite number Dick Advocaat, whose side sit at the foot of the league table, was dismayed by the result against the leaders, but buoyed by elements of the performance.
The Dutchman said: "Maybe you think I am negative, but I am not. Yes, negative that we lost 4-1, but the way we played in the first 25 minutes, it was very positive.
"I was not really happy with the way that we again gave the goals away, and it's not the first time, but there's no sense in calling names because everybody could see the mistakes, simple mistakes and it's not possible (to make those mistakes) at this level, especially not against a team like that.
"I said at half-time to the players, 'Now you have to show commitment for the team, but also as an individual because if you go on the same as we did in the last 15 minutes, then they will score four goals more'.
"But I was very pleased with what I saw in the second half. They worked very hard. You could see from the fans - they stayed until the end."
- PA Sport.
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