Manchester City cruised to a 3-1 win at home to Sunderland on Saturday, with Aleksander Kolarov, Sergio Aguero and James Milner all scoring.
The comprehensive win was a welcome tonic for City after they were outclassed and fortunate to escape with a point in a 1-1 home draw with Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League on Wednesday.
The first real chance of the match came from a mistake by Sunderland’s Spanish defender Carlos Cueller, who loitered in possession and then had to produce a desperate lunge on Carlos Tevez to stop the Argentine from having a shot on goal.
Cueller was booked for the tackle and had to watch City fullback Kolarov glide a 25-yard free-kick with his left foot over the wall and into the roof of the net.
Sunderland found themselves behind in a match for the first time this season but the early setback did not seem to upset them.
They are always well organised under Martin O’Neill and the visitors soon gained a foothold in the match at Etihad Stadium, with Stephane Sessegnon volleying just over from the edge of the box.
City were subdued for long periods in the opening period, but they have the attacking prowess to unlock the tightest of rearguards.
Kolarov was proving a danger and almost grabbed his second when James McClean deflected a Tevez pass into the Serbian’s path, but he shot straight at Simon Mignolet.
Left-back Kolarov’s star turn continued and, after having a goal-bound free-kick appear to strike Craig Gardner on the arm on the edge of the box, he then sent a vicious volley just over the bar.
Craig Gardner almost gifted Tevez a second goal when his cross-field pass was intercepted by the Argentine, but Cueller came to the rescue with another last-ditch tackle.
Scotland striker Steven Fletcher had been well marshalled by the City defence early in proceedings, but the Scot, who had scored all Sunderland’s five goals this season, showed his capabilities just after the break with a volley from a tight angle that Richards did well to block.
Normal service soon resumed though, Colback blocking a goal-bound Richards header before the defender’s follow-up attempt was cleared off the line by Danny Rose.
City were cranking up the pressure and Mario Balotelli came just inches away from connecting with a Kolarov cross. It was the Italian’s last action before being replaced by Aguero.
It proved to be an inspired switch from City manager Roberto Mancini as within four minutes of the swap, the hosts had doubled their lead.
David Silva found Kolarov in space on the left and the Serb’s darting cross was met at the front post by substitute Aguero, who diverted the ball into the corner of the net from eight yards out.
City were now dangerous every time they crossed the halfway line.
There is more cut and thrust with Tevez and Aguero in partnership, and the duo combined for the former to shoot narrowly wide.
Tevez then pounced on a loose ball on the edge of the box and after Mignolet came out to close him down, the Argentine picked out Silva, who struck the bar with a deft chip.
The home side wrapped up the points in injury time when James Milner’s vicious free-kick from a tight angle dipped and deceived Mignolet to breach the Sunderland goal again.
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