MAN CITY 3, SUNDERLAND 2
Manchester City was given a massive fright by struggling Sunderland before Frank Lampard spared their blushes with a match-winning goal.
For the second time in successive home matches, City blew a two-goal lead against a team from the basement zone of the Barclays Premier League as they had done five days earlier against Burnley.
Goals from Yaya Toure and Stevan Jovetic had given City a two-goal lead midway through the second half with the game seemingly won.
Sunderland had different ideas, though, and within five minutes were level through goals from former City players Jack Rodwell and Adam Johnson.
But City, who the previous day had managed to extend Lampard’s stay to the end of the season, again showed his value to the team as he headed a dramatic winner to prevent the team dropping further vital points in the title race.
City manager Manuel Pellegrini was delighted with Lampard’s contribution and the fact he will be staying until the end of the season and not joining New York City FC whose fans are apparently outraged that he will not be joining them this month.
He said: “Frank is a top player and in his whole career has an important amount of goals. He is very important to us.
“That is why I brought him here at the start of the season and why we want him to stay to the end of the season. We tried to keep Frank, but it was not easy as other parties were involved. It is the best decision for him and the club.”
Pellegrini was satisfied with his side’s performance as they created 31 goalscoring attempts.
He explained: “We played a very good game for 90 minutes. In the first half we were very patient, pressed well and didn’t give Sunderland a chance to score.
“May be we didn’t make the correct decisions in the final third, but it was difficult as Sunderland had 10 men behind the ball.
“We scored two beautiful goals and after Sunderland drew level had the personality and character to come back.”
City made four changes from the side held at home by Burnley, the most significant being the omission of Joe Hart who was replaced by Willy Caballero.
Toure, back from injury, returned as did Jovetic and Gael Clichy as James Milner, Fernando and Aleksandar Kolarov stood down.
Sunderland had former City players Costel Pantilimon, Rodwell and Johnson in their starting line up along with ex-United pair Wes Brown and John O’Shea.
It was soon evident that it would be no classic as the teams played their third game in seven days.
And it took over half an hour before either goalkeeper was extended when, in the 32nd minute, Pantilimon parried a shot from David Silva who had earlier shot narrowly wide after a low-key opening.
Caballero was forced into action for the first time five minutes before the break diving full length low to his right to turn away a well executed free kick from Sebastian Larsson.
The breakthrough came in the 57th minute with a goal totally out of keeping with the game. Clichy and Jovetic linked to set up Toure who smashed a 25-yard drive into the top corner for his ninth goal of the season.
City doubled their advantage nine minutes later when Jovetic scored his fifth goal of the season with a delightful near-post flick from a low Clichy cross.
But for the second successive home game, City squandered a two-goal lead as Sunderland drew level in a dramatic second period through former City players Rodwell and Johnson.
Rodwell headed home a Larsson corner and then three minutes later City were stunned for a second time when Johnson fired home a spot kick after Billy Jones had been tripped by Pablo Zabaleta.
In between the two goals, Jesus Navas struck the upright with an angled shot.
City fans were quickly celebrating again when Lampard showed why he has become such an indispensible figure putting his side back ahead within three minutes of coming on as a substitute.
Clichy provided a pinpoint cross for Lampard to head home from 12 yards, his seventh of the season and 176th Premier League goal as he overtook Thierry Henry to move into fourth place on the all time list.
It was the fifth goal in 16mins 12 sec as the game exploded to life after a lack-lustre opening.
And City ought to have scored more in the latter stages as Pantilimon pulled off super stops to deny Lampard, Navas and Fernandinho while Milner twice blazed over from great positions.