It was August 2005. City’s prized asset Shaun Wright-Phillips had just moved to Chelsea for a record incoming fee of £21m and City had replaced him with the ageing Andy Cole and the lightning fast yet erratic Darius Vassell.
The blues had made a decent start to the season, with one draw and a win while Sunderland had lost their opening two games and it already looked like being a long, hard season for the Black Cats.
The blues took the lead after just ten minutes through Vassell, who never lost a game in which he scored for City. Future bad-boy Joey Barton played a superb ball to Vassell who slotted past Kelvin Davis to score his first gaol for the blues. It had been coming as the blues had dominated the opening exchanges, with Cole forcing Davis into a third minute save.
Sunderland’s French striker Anthony Le Tallec then had a golden opportunity to level on 22 minutes but fired straight at David James in the City goal. Minutes later, the same man opted to head a cross that would have been easier to kick as it was so close to the ground. Had he opted to use his foot it would almost certainly have meant a Sunderland equaliser.
His mistake was compounded ten minutes later when Trevor Sinclair made it 2-0 with a fine curling strike with his right foot which eluded Davis and sent the visiting City fans dreaming of a place at the top of the table by 4.45 that afternoon.
But, in true style, City allowed the home side back into the game and leave the fans on tenterhooks, Le Tallec heading above Richard Dunne to pull a goal back.
Half Time: Sunderland 1-2 City
The blues should have scored a third after the interval after Sinclair played in Cole but Davis was again equal to it and made another fine save.
Sunderland pushed forward in search of an equaliser and Julien Arca had a free-kick brilliantly tipped away by James while Jonathan Stead threw away the chance to score his first Sunderland goal after failing to connect at the near post.
Dean Whitehead had Sunderland’s final chance to equalise but his header flew narrowly wide as Sunderland pressed the blues.
In the end, it was another defeat for Mick McCarthy but Stuart Pearce’s first full season as City manager had got off to a flying start.
Full Time: Sunderland 1-2 City
Sunderland: Davis, Nosworthy, Stubbs, Breen, Arca, Whitehead, Miller, Welsh, Elliott, Gray (Stead 45), Le Tallec (Lawrence 82).
Subs Not Used: Robinson, Caldwell, Joe Murphy.
Man City: James, Mills, Dunne, Jordan (Onuoha 75), Thatcher, Sinclair, Barton, Reyna, Musampa (Jihai 80), Cole, Vassell.
Subs Not Used: De Vlieger, Sibierski, Wright-Phillips.
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