To see the best pictures from the match, click on the box on the top left and scroll to “Photostream”. Scroll down for manager reactions.
Adam Johnson came back to haunt Manchester City as the champions slipped to a third successive 1-0 Barclays Premier League defeat at Sunderland.
The England winger, who was considered surplus to requirements at the Etihad Stadium during the summer and was allowed to join the Black Cats, embarrassed former team-mate Joe Hart with a dipping 53rd-minute strike which beat him at the near post and clinched three precious points for his new employers.
Sunderland turned in one of their best displays of the season on a day when City played only fitfully and Hart had to turn away Steven Fletcher’s skidding effort and keep out Stephane Sessegnon 10 minutes from time.
However, if Johnson was the hero in front of a delighted Boxing Day crowd of 42,190, keeper Simon Mignolet deserved equal praise. The Belgian denied Yaya Toure and David Silva before the break and Sergio Aguero after it to claim a precious clean sheet and make a huge contribution towards the victory.
City arrived determined not to complete an unwanted hat-trick of 1-0 league defeats on Wearside and, after a lacklustre start, eased themselves into the game. They might have been ahead with just eight minutes gone but Vincent Kompany’s header came back off the crossbar and Yaya Toure’s goalbound follow-up was hacked away by Mignolet, who reacted instantly to deny the visitors an early lead.
City were pinning Sunderland deep inside their own half and it seemed only a matter of time before they made the pressure tell. Mignolet had to be at his best once again with 24 minutes gone after Carlos Tevez and Aguero combined to put Silva in on goal, only for the keeper to block his effort at close range.
But seconds later Hart had to dive to his right to turn away Fletcher’s rasping left-foot drive and the Black Cats, buoyed after weathering the early storm, started to force their way into the game.
Johnson was enjoying the better of his individual battle with Pablo Zabaleta, who played much of the half with a heavily bandaged head after suffering a cut, and as James McClean took up the theme, Martin O’Neill’s men upped their tempo.
Kompany and Matija Nastasic had to repel dangerous crosses from Sebastian Larsson and McClean respectively and Sessegnon flashed a header well wide from Craig Gardner’s driven 42nd-minute cross.
Sunderland picked up where they had left off after the restart as McClean and Johnson, with the help of Sessegnon and Fletcher, stretched City uncomfortably at times.
Indeed it was they who took the lead with eight minutes of the half played, when Johnson picked up possession and cut inside before blasting in a dipping shot which caught Hart flat-footed at his near post and squirmed into the bottom corner.
Sessegnon might have doubled his side’s advantage within two minutes but pulled his effort across the face of goal with City in disarray and the visitors were almost breached once again on the hour when McClean picked out Sessegnon in front of goal only for the Benin international to lose control.
The visitors gradually regained their composure and started to move the ball confidently once again and Mignolet had to claim a 68th-minute Zabaleta cross at his near post after being played in by James Milner.
The Belgium international excelled himself once again two minutes later to deny Aguero one on one but it was Hart in the firing line with 10 minutes remaining when Sessegnon was played in by substitute Fraizer Campbell with the goalkeeper coming out on top.
City battered away at their hosts as time ran down but, with Sunderland defending deep and with tenacity, they simply could not find a way through and McClean almost served up the perfect finish with an 88th-minute shot which flew just wide.
Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill: “The players were brilliant from start to finish. They were really up against it with Manchester City going with the strongest side that they could put out. We had to match that and we did.
“We were committed and had some fantastic touches throughout the game. We could have scored more goals. Everybody worked incredibly hard for the team. Wingers coming back to help full-backs and then full-backs getting forward to cover, it was just brilliant. Today the crowd were right behind us from the start and kept with us. It was a great atmosphere.”
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini: “It was the same game as last season, like the season before and the season before that. I don’t know how it’s possible to lose this game, I think we played very well but we have one problem – we need to score.
“Maybe next year we won't come, we won't spend the money to come here but every time we've come here and lost we've won a title at the end of the season. Our strikers need to improve. We need to change something in our team because we can’t continue like this.
“We score too few goals. Sometimes we take too many touches and we think, 'Never mind, we can score next time,' but we can’t be like that. In football, it doesn’t work like that. We have to be stronger in the penalty area."
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