Manchester City 2-1 Sunderland: Black Cats defend deep, come close to upsetting Pep

A positive start for the Blues with a lot of improvement needed for the Red and White army.

Manchester City 2-1 Sunderland: Black Cats defend deep, come close to upsetting Pep
Sunderland celebrating leveling at the Etihad. | Photo: SAFC

On the opening day of the new Premier League season, the Black Cats faced the difficult task of facing title favourites, Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.

It was clear from the first whistle that it was going to be at a slow tempo, not something normally seen on the opening day of the new term, with no clear cut chances. But it was City who came away with the win, in was a dream start to their campaign.

The hosts dominated both halves and had more possession, but they only had two goals to show for it; although one was a penalty and the other was an own goal from Sunderland debutant, Paddy McNair. 

New season, same old problems for the Black Cats

It was a deflated feeling seeing John O’Shea take the role of a central midfielder. Even if he was in this position two of the pre-season games, the Irishman is slow compared to City's fast-paced midfield. O’Shea was wasted being in midfield for the duration of the game.

The defence has always been a major problem for Sunderland. Despite being the start of the season, it hasn’t changed, and it was lacklustre, to say the least; always playing on the back foot and continually giving the ball away. At one point in the game, there were nine players in the box and no-one could clear their lines.

Not only was the defence an issue, some players didn’t look interested at all being on the pitch, strolling around like they are not bothered at all being involved.

Moyes looks on during the match. | Photo: The Gurdian
Moyes looks on during the match. | Photo: The Gurdian

Next piece of the jigsaw

The Blues went into the lead with a penalty given away by Patrick van Aanholt. He made the mistake of sliding in when not necessary, gifting Sergio Aguero the chance to open his account for the season from the spot; which he duly took care of.

City were attacking left, right and centre as the Black Cats sat back to allow them to play. Moyes' men were not closing down quick enough and kept conceding posession, although they did have their chances. This mainly came from a Jermain Defoe breakaway, the next part of the jigsaw is to get bodies up and support Defoe in the box. 

Going into the break the Lads were a goal down. It wasn’t a terrible start for them but it could be a lot better, they have clear problems that stick out like a sore thumb and Moyes didn’t really have the answers given the bench he had at his disposal.

Swings and roundabouts

Things improved a lot in the second half as Sunderland found the opportunity to give Defoe the ball and he scored to make it level, to the disbelief of Pep Guardiola. But after the goal, the tactics went back to being defensive, sitting deep in their own half to defend the draw. Just when fans thought Sunderland would come back to Wearside with a draw, it was McNair - in his first game for the Lads - in the wrong place at the wrong time to score an own goal.

This is certainly a performance that will live long in the memory of the fans and players on both sides. For Sunderland, it is clear that new signings are a must and that new players are needed to freshen up the defence, all the way through to the attacking line.

To start the season away from home against the title favourties team is never going to be an easy task. Moyes has a lot to ponder going into next week’s match at home against newly-promoted Middleborough, but will know that his team needs to create more chances.