Aguero strike enough to see off Black Cats


City ground out a hard-fought 1-0 win over Sunderland thanks to Sergio Aguero´s

17th goal of the campaign.

The Blues were far from their best on a chilly night in the north-east, but with

Leicester and Tottenham both winning as well, this was a crucial three points in this

most fascinating of title races.

And with the Foxes and Spurs next up, anything other than a win at the Stadium of

Light would have been a severe blow to the Blues´ title aspirations.

Manuel Pellegrini, overseeing his 100th Premier League game, made five changes

from the side that comprehensively swept Aston Villa aside at the weekend.

Kelechi Iheanacho retained his place while Joe Hart, Martin Demichelis, Yaya Toure,

David Silva and Aguero all returned to the starting XI.

With the Blues´ recent away form picking up over the past month and Sunderland

embroiled in a relegation battle, City started this game as strong favourites.

Aguero went close with a long-range effort as the Blues started confidently and it was

the in-form Argentine striker – inevitably – who put the visitors ahead with just 16

minutes played.

The ball worked its way out towards Jesus Navas who whipped a deflected low cross

into the box that fell perfectly for Aguero who sidestepped his marker before poking

the ball over Mannone and into the net.

There was concern immediately after due to Billy Jones´ crude attempt to stop the

City man but fortunately there was no serious damage caused other than stud marks

down Kun´s calf.

The Blues remained on top until the half-hour mark but it was Sunderland who

finished the half stronger and on 34 minutes, Lamine Kone was guilty of glaring miss

as he headed Jeremain Lens cross wide with the goal at his mercy.

City didn´t heed that warning and a minute before the break had Hart to thank for

keeping out the improving Black Cats as Jermain Defoe worked an opportunity in the

box and fired in a low drive that the England keeper somehow pushed out and Jones

smacked the loose ball against the post.

The Blues had taken their foot off the gas somewhat and Sunderland were, at the

stage, in the ascendency. Pellegrini replaced Iheanacho with Fernando in a bid to

bolster the midfield.

It was a strange game in many ways with City unable to find a second goal and the

hosts continuing to knock on the door throughout the second-half.

Clearly the Black Cats´ three new signings had given their team impetus, and in the

closing stages John O´Shea blazed over from close range and then a series of superb

corners from Khazri caused all kinds of problems for the Blues.

Hart was again called upon to make a fine save from Jones and the final moments

were frantic and, at times desperate,. as Sunderland peppered City’s goal from all

angles.

Then, in the fifth minute of injury time, man-of-the-match Nicolas Otamendi

heroically headed off the line when it seemed the Blues´ resistance had finally

buckled.

It wasn´t pleasant to watch, but City showed grit and determination even though they

were far from their best, banked three more precious points ahead of Saturday’s top of

the table clash with the Foxes.

MATCH DETAILS:

Sunderland (0): Mannone, Jones, O’Shea, Kone, Kirchhoff, van Aanholt, Cattermole

(Johnson 75), M’Vila, Borini (NDoye 82), Lens (Khazri 46), Defoe

Manchester City (1): Hart, Sagna, Demichelis, Otamendi, Clichy, Fernandinho, Yaya

Toure (Kolarov , Silva, Navas (Sterling 77), Aguero, Iheanacho (Fernando 46)

Goals: Aguero 16

Bookings: Jones, Otamendi, Aguero, Fernandinho

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