It might not have been the free flowing, brilliant performance many Manchester City fans might have hoped for, but in Pep Guardiola’s first match for Manchester City he came out a winner. A late own goal from Paddy McNair proved to be the difference in Manchester as the home side kicked off their campaign with a 2-1 victory over Sunderland.
Guardiola made waves before the match even kicked off when he dropped Joe Hart from the starting 11 in favor of Spanish keeper Willy Caballero. Guardiola has been rumored to be looking to move Hart, and he must have felt that Caballero would give his side the best chance today.
Things started out rather well for Guardiola’s team, a clumsy challenge from Sunderland’s Patrick van Aanholt on Raheem Sterling gave City an early penalty. Sergio Aguero took the spot-kick and made no mistake putting it away for a 1-0 lead.
City looked put Sunderland away early, but they struggled to create any further clear chances for the remainder of the half. However, all the hallmarks of a Guardiola team presented themselves. 74% possession from the hosts along with frequent overloads and switching of play meant Sunderland were on the back foot for most of the match. Sunderland, in the first half, may have bent but they did not break, and actually had the best chance of the half. Jermain Defoe’s effort from six yards out forced a save from Caballero.
The second half started with more of the same from City. The side showed they were more than capable of passing circles around Sunderland, but they still failed to break through Sunderland’s defense. City did manage a few more chances in the second half, an Aguero attempt from six yards out blistered wide, and a Kevin de Bruyne free kick did enough to trouble Vito Mannone but not enough to beat him.
City’s early second half chances made it seem like they had finally found their rhythm, but their 1-0 lead soon disappeared. Against the run of play, Sunderland won the ball team in City’s half and played the ball to Defoe who cooly finished past Caballero to level the score. Apart from the section of travelling Sunderland fans, the Ethiad was silenced, and Guardiola started to look a little nervous on the bench.
Sunderland’s equalizer was more than welcome for David Moyes who was making a managerial debut of his own today. His side struggled to see much of the ball today but was able to generate chances, which could prove important for them as they look to fight relegation once again this season.
City, meanwhile, didn’t want to start the Guardiola era with dropped points against Sunderland, and after conceding, they attempted to turn up the pressure. Sunderland was going to try to sit back, as a draw away to Manchester City would suit them. A few minutes from the 90, however, Sunderland’s defense broke and City took the lead once more.
A cross in from the right was deflected by McNair and found it’s way to the back of the net. It was a fortunate goal for City, but their pressure on Sunderland’s defense was always going to generate chances in the final few moments. Sunderland will feel hard done by the late goal, but they will be able to take some positives from this match.
Guardiola and his team will hope today was just first match jitters. They were not entirely convincing despite controlling the ball throughout. Sunderland did enough to worry the new boss, and he’ll need to find a way to get more out of his side. Guardiola didn’t have his full team available to him today, and maybe that caused some of the nervous moments. Going forward, however, it might take some time to find this team’s identity. Guardiola will spend all season fine tuning the squad to his liking, and if City picks up wins along the way, the Catalan wont mind how they get them. They all count for 3 points at the end of the season.