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The first defeat of the season has Sunderland fans filled with a mixture of emotions. We were comfortably dispatched by last seasons Champions, so it was to be expected. On the other hand we didn't show much fight in the game barring a couple of spells. Here's what we made of it, plus Martin O'Neill's thoughts...
What The Gaffer Said
In speaking with the club's official website after the game, Martin O'Neill had this to say on his side's performance at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday;
I'm disappointed with the result and the performance, we should have done much better.
Manchester City can beat anybody and they can play like that on any given day, but we gave them a lot of room and time and maybe too much respect.
They are a fine side but we gave the ball away far too easily and it was hard to recover.
In the second half we tried to become more of an attacking threat but they got their second goal halfway through, giving them time to perform again, and eventually they were too strong for us.
We lost possession after just a couple of minutes, which led to the free kick and [Aleksandar] Kolarov is more than capable of scoring those type of goals.
That was the turning point in the game.
After Manchester City's draw in midweek, they might have been feeling sorry for themselves, but we gifted them the opportunity to score after conceding that free kick.
However, we still should have been able to come back from that.
We didn't have that many strikes on goal and the scoreline could have been much worse had it not been for Simon [Mignolet].
It's difficult to disagree with anything said there from him, as he gives a good and honest assessment of our performance. Anyway, we've also our own thoughts to add to things, so here we go with it.
Colback Fails To Take Big Chance
With Lee Cattermole out the side there's a prime opportunity for Jack Colback to assert himself as an authority in midfield. Yes, he's an exceptional player, and this was a one off game, but it perhaps serves to temper expectations for him a little as he failed to really impose himself on the game. Obviously he was up against formidable opponents, but you still can't help but feel Colback was below par and could have offered a little more given the opportunity given to him. (SW)
Wasteful In Possession
While that stats might prove otherwise there was some periods where we had some good possession of the ball, and unfortunately we just couldn't do anything with it. Going forward in particular. When the ball reached the edge of the final third it was inevitably wasted, with the only semi-decent chance coming through an offside Steven Fletcher header. We can put some of it down to the quality of the opposition, but much more crucially than that our passing was for the most part woeful for anything more complex than five yards and sideways. (SW)
Don't Give Up On Gardner
Craig Gardner's been great in defence so far this season, however with Phil Bardsley nearing a comeback and breathing down his neck to return to the right back position, Gardner picked the wrong week to have a bad game. Or did he have a bad game? I happen to think it wasn't as bad as it looked and although Aleksander Kolarov had him on the ropes for the entire game, it was far and away one of Kolarov's best games in the blue shirt. Certainly, we shouldn't give up on Gardner as a full back, where he's proved to be much better than any game he's had in his 'natural midfield position. (SW)
Mignolet Not To Blame
There's been some criticism of Simon Mignolet's performance in the game, and notably how the first goal was allowed to creep in at the near post, but take nothing away from Kolarov - it was an outstanding hit. If it hadn't been for Mignolet the score would no doubt have been much, much worse than it was and he should be one of a very small bunch who can head back to work this week with his head held semi-high. (SW)
Sess Shows Something But McClean Still Missing
The situation which sees neither Stephane Sessegnon nor James McClean hitting their best form yet is worrying. We all got very excited about the attacking possibilities with Steven Fletcher and Adam Johnson added to the mix, but neither of the existing attacking talents seem to have stepped up. If anything, they've regressed.
Sessegnon did manage to show up briefly for a solid 15-20 minute spell in the second half, but McClean was abysmal. Whenever the ball was played wide to the Irishman he couldn't find a way past Pablo Zabaleta, not even by accident as opposed to skill, and it's become a worrying and notable trend that when he's not in the game, he's REALLY not in the game. I wouldn't hesitate to say this was his worst performance in a Sunderland shirt. (SW)
Perspective Must Not Be Selective
This time last week there was something of a consensus that 'we were only playing Wigan at home', and so we mustn't read too much into it. This week, the same people making the plea seem to be telling us that the quality of the opposition is irrelevant.
No one will try and insist that it was a good performance from Sunderland at the Etihad. It was poor, disjointed, and contained a lot of room for significant improvement. But there is plenty of room for balance in the analysis. Of course the fact the fact we were up against the Champions is relevant. It may not have caused the errors that led to the opening and killer goals, but their quality certainly ensured those mistakes were ruthlessly capitalized upon and our own inadequacies on the day savagely exposed. (MG)