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Sunderland crash to defeat against Man City
SUNDERLAND suffered their first defeat of the season as they were comprehensively outplayed by reigning Premier League champions Manchester City.
Goals from Aleksandar Kolarov, Sergio Aguero and James Milner condemned Martin O'Neill's side to a 3-0 defeat at the Etihad Stadium, and the scale of the reverse would have been more emphatic had it not been for a number of fine saves from Simon Mignolet.
Sunderland never looked like repeating the spirited showing that saw them claim a 3-3 draw at Eastlands last season as City turned in comfortably their best display of the current campaign.
Black Cats boss Martin O'Neill made one change to the side that beat Wigan last weekend, with Carlos Cuellar replacing Titus Bramble at centre-half.
The Spaniard had missed the previous two matches with a hamstring injury, and found himself at the heart of the action as Sunderland conceded within the opening five minutes.
Cuellar was rightly penalised after clattering into Carlos Tevez on the edge of the area, and Kolarov stepped up to curl in a superb free-kick that beat Simon Mignolet at his near post.
Mignolet might have done slightly better with the set-piece, but the Belgian was in fine form in the 21st minute as he prevented Pablo Zabaleta slotting home from ten yards.
Sunderland's best first-half effort ended in Joe Hart making a routine save from Steven Fletcher's deflected shot, and while Manchester City were not at their rampaging best, they were always in control during a slightly low-key first half that ended with Gareth Barry drilling wide from the edge of the area.
The second half started in a much more exciting manner, with chances at both ends of the field.
Fletcher has scored all of Sunderland's Premier League goals so far, and the Scotsman volleyed Seb Larsson's floated cross towards goal, only for his effort to be blocked by Micah Richards.
A minute later and Mignolet was producing an equally important intervention, tipping Yaya Toure's rising drive over the crossbar.
Then, with City suddenly building up a head of steam, Danny Rose was forced to produce an excellent headed goalline clearance to prevent Richards firing home after his initial header had been blocked.
Richards provided an aerial threat all afternoon, and Mignolet was forced to produce another fine save to keep out the defender's 58th-minute header from a Milner corner.
However, the Sunderland goalkeeper was unable to prevent Manchester City doubling their lead on the hour mark.
Aguero had only been on the field for five minutes when he converted Kolarov's low left-wing cross, stealing ahead of his marker to stab home from the edge of the six-yard box.
Tevez went close to claiming a third with a low drive that whistled just past the left-hand post, before David Silva curled a deft chip against the crossbar after Tevez teed up him.
Joe Hart was finally forced into a meaningful save with 19 minutes left – clawing away James McClean's header from Larsson's corner – but City continued to pour forward in the closing stages.
Kolarov saw his 85th-minute effort charged down, but Milner scored a deserved third with a minute left.
The former Newcastle midfielder whipped in a free-kick from the left edge of the area, and the ball flicked off Craig Gardner's head as it whistled past Mignolet.
MAN CITY (4-3-3): Hart; Zabaleta, Richards, Lescott, Kolarov; Milner, Y Toure, Barry; Silva (Rodwell 90), Tevez (Clichy 85), Balotelli (Aguero 55).
Subs (not used): Pantilimon (gk), K Toure, Nasri, Dzeko.
SUNDERLAND (4-4-1-1): Mignolet; Gardner, Cuellar, O'Shea, Rose (Vaughan 61); Johnson (Saha 68), Larsson, Colback, McClean; Sessegnon (Campbell 83); Fletcher.
Subs (not used): Westwood (gk), Bramble, Kilgallon, Meyler.