SUNDERLAND 1, MAN CITY 0
MANCHESTER City were struck down by another bout of travel sickness following their last-gasp Barclays Premier League defeat at Sunderland.
Only four seconds of the three minutes of stoppage time remained when substitute Dong-won Ji struck the match-winning goal which prevented City from exploiting the shock defeat by their Mancunian neighbours against Blackburn Rovers 24 hours earlier.
City have picked up only one point from their last three away matches as they are experiencing their first stumble in a remarkable season. After scoring in 23 consecutive games, they have suddenly fired two blanks in a row.
And the match mirrored last season’s game at the Stadium of Light when Darren Bent scored a last-gasp winner for the Black Cats.
City manager Roberto Mancini, who has failed to win in three attempts at the Stadium of Light, was left to reflect on what might have been.
Mancini said: “We didn’t deserve to lose and you cannot lose a game like that. I don’t know how many chances we had, but sometimes you can’t win.
“We played very well in the second half and have been unlucky in our last two games.”
Mancini was more disappointed with the goal City conceded at the death.
He continued: “Strong teams cannot concede goals like that, though it was offside.
“They have to understand it is impossible to attack with 10 players and it is not good enough for a top team.”
Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill described it as a “remarkable performance” by his injury-hit team adding it was an “extraordinary” victory.
City made six changes from Boxing Day as they clearly had eyes on their match against Liverpool on Tuesday.
Out went David Silva, Sergio Aguero, Mario Balotelli, Gael Clichy, Kolo Toure and James Milner and in came Edin Dzeko, Adam Johnson, Nigel de Jong, Gareth Barry, Joleon Lescott and Aleksandar Kolarov.
City made a tentative start against the Black Cats who themselves were without four players who played on Boxing Day, though they were enforced changes through injury and illness.
Sunderland made the brighter start and could have been two goals ahead inside six minutes as City were slow out of the blocks.
Nicolas Bendtner was put clean though on goal only to be denied by Joe Hart with a brave block as the striker attempted to round him.
Hart was then extended by a low shot from James McClean as City found themselves in retreat and on the back foot as Sunderland played some delightful football.
Sunderland were forced to make a change midway through the opening half when centre-half Wes Brown limped off to be replaced by Matt Kilgannon.
City gradually began to exert more influence as Edin Dzeko’s close-range shot was well blocked by keeper Simon Mignolet, Samir Nasri’s effort was cleared off the line by Craig Gardner and Dzeko’s drive from the edge of the box struck the crossbar.
Aguero replaced De Jong at the break as City clearly needed more attacking impetus if they were to win and establish a three-point lead at the top of the table.
After that failed to improve City’s fortunes, Silva was summoned from the bench for Nasri as another of their most influential players was pressed into action.
And the two City substitutes combined just short of the hour as Silva’s slide-rule pass released Aguero who was denied by a desperate block by Mignolet.
City themselves had a let off midway through the half when Stephane Sessegnon weaved his way clear on the right of the box only to shoot agonisingly wide.
Micah Richards came on for Kolarov as City made their third and final chance with 24 minutes left.
City gradually began to crank up the pressure as Dzeko headed narrowly wide and Aguero saw a shot flash not far off target.
But try as City did, a match-winning goal just wouldn’t come.
City were especially unlucky in the 88th minute when Silva’s shot was blocked by Mignolet and a follow-up header from Richards hit the crossbar. Silva then brought a smart save from the Black Cats keeper.
Then in the third and final minute of stoppage time came the sting as Sunderland snatched the unlikeliest of wins after a breakway.
Sessegnon played in substitute Ji who danced his way through the City defence and, despite being marginally offside and driven wide after rounding Hart, the South Korean managed to poke home the winner from a tight angle.