Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne were on target as Manchester City cruised into the fourth round of the League Cup thanks to a resounding 4-1 victory at Sunderland.
The struggling hosts were outclassed by the Premier League leaders who were 4-0 up within 36 minutes, prompting a number of home fans to make a very premature exit from the Stadium of Light.
The result and, in particular, the manner of the performance, is likely to increase the pressure on Sunderland boss Dick Advocaat who admitted ahead of the game that he would step down if he felt someone better was ready to replace him.
Both managers opted for strong starting line-ups, with Sunderland handing a debut to DeAndre Yedlin and Manuel Pellegrini including Aguero, De Bruyne, Yaya Toure and Sterling.
Despite their abysmal league form, it was Sunderland who started the brighter, Adam Johnson and Fabio Borini both going close within the first five minutes as the hosts piled on the early pressure.
City appeared to be up against it, only to stun the home fans into silence as they took the lead with what was their first real attack of the game.
Patrick van Aanholt’s challenge on Jesus Navas looked to be just outside the box, but referee Roger East thought otherwise and awarded the spot-kick which Aguero converted with ease to claim his first club goal in over a month.
Borini then saw what looked like a legitimate goal ruled out for a rather innocuous foul on Nicolas Otamendi, before Sunderland fell victim to another sucker punch.
This time it came in the form of a rapid City breakaway in which De Bruyne and Sterling exchanged a neat one-two, allowing the former to drive in on goal and beat Vito Mannone at his near post.
And there was more misery for the former Arsenal goalkeeper seven minutes later when Sterling’s close-range shot rebounded off the post, struck him on the back and cannoned into the net.
Sunderland appeared to have no answer to City’s attacking fluency, especially down the right and on 36 minutes, the game was effectively over as a contest as the visitors grabbed their fourth.
This time De Bruyne returned the favour for Sterling by playing him in on goal and the former Liverpool man almost casually bent the ball wide of Mannone into the far corner.
It could and should have been even worse for Advocaat’s men just before the break, Aguero delaying his shot too long after successfully rounding Mannone, allowing Sebastian Coates to clear the danger.
The Argentina international again left Mannone floundering at his feet early in the second-half, but this time he opted to pick out Sterling and his dallying allowed Sunderland to clear.
The overworked home goalkeeper was then tested by a low drive from Toure just before the hour-mark as City continued to rampage forward in search of a fifth goal.
Jeremain Lens did at least threaten a response from the men in red and white when he showed some neat footwork before firing straight at Willy Caballero in the visitors’ goal.
But when they did finally make the breakthrough, it came too late to be anything more than a consolation, Ola Toivonen converting Yedlin’s cross on 83 minutes.
Pellegrini, meanwhile, was able to hand a debut to Manu Garcia midway through the second half and the highly-rated young Spanish midfielder showed some nice touches as City cruised through to the next round.
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