A nervy finish at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday saw Manchester City and new manager Pep Guardiola get off to a winning start in the 2016-17 Premier League campaign. City defeated Sunderland 2-1, handing new manager David Moyes his first loss in charge of the Black Cats.
With England international and long-time starting goalkeeper Joe Hart on the bench, Guardiola used a 4-1-4-1 formation that looked full of different and creative attacking options.
Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero and new signing Nolito had the look of a team ready to put several goals up in the afternoon. However, after a promising start to the game, City struggled to assert themselves against a stingy and organised Sunderland squad.
The 4th minute saw Guardiola and City bag a penalty kick thanks to a foul from defender Patrick van Aanholt; Aguero beautifully converted the opportunity to give the hosts a 1-0 lead early on.
Seemingly from that point on, Manchester City were unable to create many chances and failed to convert the few chances that came their way into genuine scoring opportunities.
At various moments in the second half, tiki-taka began to make its first real appearance. City’s midfielders and defenders held a significant chunk of possession and completed sequences of passes all across the pitch, as Sunderland sat back and waited for their chance to strike.
And that chance came in the 71st minute.
Substitute Adnan Januzaj made his debut for Sunderland and found himself at the heart of the equalising play. A fine central pass to midfielder Jack Rodwell after an excellent run up the right side, Rodwell weighted a perfect through ball that forward Jermain Defoe fired low under goalkeeper Willy Caballero to equalise the match at 1-1.
Sunderland and Moyes seemed poised to grab a crucial road point, until an unfortunate own-goal from substitute defender Paddy McNair gave all three points to Manchester City in the 87th minute.
Manchester City will now prepare for Tuesday’s crucial Champions League qualifier against Romanian club Steaua Bucuresti, while Sunderland will look to bounce back against Middlesbrough next weekend.
Differing Tactical Approaches
Pep Guardiola’s debut in the English Premier League brought mixed results. Manchester City enjoyed an impressive 77% possession, outshot Sunderland 16-7 and completed over 400 passes (578-102), but much of their work did little to secure the victory.
Sunderland were content to keep their midfield and backline in a defensive shape, waiting for Jermain Defoe to find his chance. They perhaps should look for a more proactive philosophy moving forward, their performance was good and should have been enough to get valuable points on the road.
Manchester City, meanwhile, will need to work on making more of their passes and possession.
Jermain Defoe’s equalising goal sent shockwaves down the Manchester City squad and their supporters. With former Everton defender John Stones making his City debut alongside Aleksandar Kolarov in central defence, Guardiola saw the match turn on its head due to inefficiency in the attack.
By the time Defoe scored, City easily should have had a two or three goal lead. This moment highlighted how complacency could be the enemy of any talented squad.
Player at Fault
Jose Mourinho most likely flashed a cheeky smile out of seeing this match unfold.
With two former Manchester United players making their Sunderland debut, it was bound to be interesting to see how Januzaj and McNair performed for their new club.
Januzaj was integral to Sunderland’s equaliser, while McNair found himself cast in a different light being the goat of the game with an unfortunate header into his own net. A disappointing ending for a young player looking for a fresh start.