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Sunderland are no longer just Manchester City’s bogey side in the Premier League after a fourth successive home victory. They are their nemesis. In each of the past four seasons Sunderland have been battling to stay in the top flight while City have been competing for the title, but four times the Wearside club have triumphed by the same 1-0 scoreline.

Regardless of whether you view it as a remarkable statistic or a strange quirk of fate, Sunderland do incredibly well whenever they host City and those in Sky Blue might need some sort of psychological help before their next visit.

City had scored 12 goals in their last two games; Sunderland had not kept a clean sheet in the Premier League all season. This was a result that defied form, as well as logic, and it has done wonders for Sunderland’s survival hopes.

Manuel Pellegrini did not carry any scars from the three defeats endured by his predecessor Roberto Mancini, but he suffered the same painful experience on his first trip to the Stadium of Light and wore the same puzzled expression as he tried to explain the worst result of his five-month City reign.

“My reaction to this is very similar to the other games we have lost away,” Pellegrini said. “I don’t know how we have lost, I think we played well, it was just one chance for Sunderland and they scored.

“We had most of the possession. Maybe in the first half we were a little bit complacent with the way Sunderland were playing.

“We are losing too many points away and it is very difficult if you’re not winning away to fight for the Premier League title. We are not playing bad, though. Sunderland played really well, particularly defending.”

City’s pain will have been inflamed by the identity of Sunderland’s scorer and their outstanding player. Former Manchester United defender Phil Bardsley netted the only goal of the game and his former Old Trafford team-mate, centre-back Wes Brown, was a formidable presence.

It was Brown’s first start in the league since January 2012 and Sunderland manager Gus Poyet felt that it was his inclusion which enabled them to hold on to the lead Bardsley gave them following a mistake by James Milner, who assumed he would win a free-kick if he fell to the ground under pressure.

“I know for the fans and the history of the club beating our local rivals [Newcastle United] in the derby is the most important result,” Poyet said. “But in terms of opposition quality this is the biggest result of my managerial career.

“We are starting to believe we can stay up. The league table looks a lot better for us than it did on Sunday morning. The most important part of the game was keeping the clean sheet because we have been too open.

“We defended and put bodies on the line. We concentrated for 90 minutes and I think maybe Wes Brown was the key. He has won the Premier League, he knows where the ball is going to be all the time. Now we have to keep him fit.”

The Sunderland manager added: “I am so pleased for the players. They need to believe. It’s easy to talk – we can say things and you can write. But it’s the players on the pitch who need to be convinced that this new way of playing football and defending is working, which is great for the future.

“So let’s see if we can keep this going. It’s a good time to go into the international break.”

Manchester City, who might have been playing against 10 men had referee Mike Dean taken a different view of Sebastian Larsson’s studs-up lunge on Javi ­García in the first half and they should have equalised before half-time when the unmarked Sergio Agüero headed wide.

Other than a couple of long-range shots from Ki Sung-Yeung and Adam Johnson, City applied almost constant pressure on the Sunderland defence. They did not ever get behind it, though, and Sunderland grew in confidence as City’s frustration increased. Goalkeeper Vito Mannone did make one superb save to keep an Agüero shot out and substitute Edin Dzeko put a header narrowly over late on.

Source: Telegraph

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