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City v. Sunderland Running Diary

I wrote up this running diary for my friend who got me into the EPL and thought I'd post it here in case anyone was interested.

Full Disclosure/Background: I'm fairly new to the EPL, having jumped in with City around the time that Bill Simmons wrote about Choosing [His] EPL Team, after being prodded for years by my Best Friend, who is a life-long United fan. Obviously, I wasn't rooting for the Yankees of the EPL, so I ended up choosing City for a variety of mainly unimportant reasons . . . the Sky Blue Kit, Toure Yaya, seeing some great goals by Tevez, the fact that they were fairly competitive at the time (Top 6 team) and because I could enjoy derby trash talk with my buddy by choosing his cross-town rival. All that said, I know little of the game, and have been learning as I go. After gradually getting more interested, last year was the first year that was "all-in" and didn't miss a match, which couldn't have worked out better for me.

This is more about me and my continued education of the game, so feel free to jump in with anything that I am seeing/interpreting incorrectly, or if you want to add something that I (most certainly) missed. I hope this is at least entertaining.

OPENING THOUGHTS: Well, it's MUCH easier to watch a City match when they score in the first couple of minutes (GREAT strike by Kolorov).

Ian Darke mentions that Balotelli may not have followed Mancini's instructions to fall back and help on defense, which may seem unsurprising (due to his reputation), but I've always noticed that he falls back more than most strikers (especially compared to Dzeko, who doesn't seem to do ANYTHING most of the time).

19': Macca sees nothing wrong with a full body-check/DB-crossing-route-style tackle on Balotelli. I may never understand what should/shouldn't be considered a foul in soccer. Seemed like an easy Yellow to me. Seriously, how different is body checking someone versus Zinadine Zidane's infamous headbutt? It's almost exactly the same scenario where the only difference is body/arms vs. forehead. Yes, I know that in itself is a pretty big difference, but still.

21': HUGE save on Zabaleta's shot. That could have blown the game wide open if that went in.

25': Kolorov almost knocked a guy out with a free kick. Corner to City is like adding advantage to injury.

32': I was honestly surprised to look up from my phone [where I was writing this] to see that it's still only 1-nil . . . City has absolutely dominated thus far.

34': Silva seems to be making a lot of late/poor/questionable challenges today. Nothing deserving of a card, but he won't likely be getting the benefit of the doubt if anything happens late in the match.

36': Tevez never seems to give up on plays. I was just telling my wife this morning that probably the biggest problem for kids to overcome in youth soccer is to not stop after making/attempting a play. The kids who excel (and sometimes control/dominate) will make a second or third play without stopping. Perhaps I was too narrow when I threw out my net on "youth" soccer.

40': Did Tevez play at United while Ronaldo & Rooney were both in the starting 11? If so, how did the fit together? Was it CR & CT up front with WR as an Attacking Midfielder? Did Tevez more or less REPLACE Ronaldo when he left? Tevez is a hard worker, but he definitely doesn't have Rooney's passing/crossing quality.

44': Do Sunderland & Stoke City share a Manager? It seems to be the same guy, OR (more likely) I just incorrectly thought the Sunderland Manager was Stoke City's Manager. [I have since looked it up, and I'm not 100% convinced they aren't at least related.]

HALFTIME: Macca absolutely despises the Twitter questions segment, which makes it wildly entertaining. Watch his face every time Ian Darke goes to read a question. Not good times, GREAT times.

It may be because of the channel placement (niche sports channel DEEP in the cable lineup), but it's hard to think that Soccer has caught on in America when their most common commercial sponsor is QuiBids.com. This is a FAR cry from watching the MLB Wild Card winners celebration "Sponsored by Budweiser". I'm obviously not talking about the quality of "The King of Beers", but that's a huge corporate sponsor (and only one of many). Definitely beats Sonosite. Just another example of soccer's cult/niche status in the States.

49': Micah Richards makes a Kompany-like stop to cover for a Rodwellian miscue by Garreth Barry.

50': It makes me happy to see Toure Yaya do Toure Yaya things (btw, I always refer to him as Toure Yaya because of his jersey).

51': GREAT defense by Sunderland, preventing ANOTHER sure score (twice!).

53': I'm liking what I'm seeing from Richards & Kolorov so far. If Richards can take these results to the right side, then City would just need to find a permanent partner with Kompany in the Center (if Lescott isn't that guy any more).

55': Balotelli almost scored on a great looking cross by Kolorov just before being subbed out.

57': I'm not really a fan of the short/quick corner. Goals are worth too much not to have plenty of set pieces in your playbook.

58': Next corner almost netted a goal, if not for a very nice diving save. I must admit, it's nice to feel validated from my previous statement so quickly.

60': Nice counter-attack with multiple quality passes ends with a not-quite-as-good cross by Tevez. Luckily, Aguero scores mere SECONDS later on a much better cross from Kolorov as I was typing this. QUALITY strike by Aguero, btw. LONG awaited 2-nil breakthrough from City.

62': Observation from Macca, "They look a lot more sharp with Aguero on the field." I agree. If only he or Tevez were "Talls" instead of "Smalls" then City would be set up front.

68': Adam Johnson gets a standing ovation by both clubs' supporters; that's nice to see.

70': After Tevez pulls a breakaway shot JUST wide, he makes ANOTHER breakaway run that pulls the goalie out, and Silva almost makes a BRILLIANT lob shot from outside the box.

72': Silva just CLOWNED a defender with a no-look pass between the guy's legs. THAT'S the Silva I want to see more of.

75': Real-like one-touch passing by City. I could EASILY get used to that. Richards with another shot off a corner, which gives me another opportunity to stake my claim for he & Kolorov to get more burn in the back 4.

78': Anywhere else on the pitch Yaya gets a place kick for that scissor-takedown, but with the way City's dominating, the ref isn't giving ANYTHING to City anywhere near the box. There's been 3-4 questionable no-calls that would be potentially infuriating in a tighter match.

86': Sunderland gets away with a handball in the penalty area on a Kolorov ROCKET. Again, potentially frustrating under different circumstances.

88': Kolorov draws a foul just outside of the box. Repeat of his previous placekick? YES! Except that it was James Milner who shot it.

90': Rodwell comes in for Kolorov, and now I'm LEGITIMATELY worried about City getting their first Clean Sheet of the season. I have less than Zero Confidence in him at this point; not a good sign. Jack Rodwell: Horrible Signing, or Worst Possible Signing? [NOTE: I was excited about the signing at the time, because I had picked him up last year in the iOS version of Football Manager and he was great, so his less-than-spectacular beginnings at City might have made the pendulum swing a little too far in the other direction for me. Add to that, hearing about his tendency to "back-pass" from Men In Blazers has been soberingly accurate thus far.]

90'+4': Luckily, not even Back Passwell (just came up with that by the way [self back pat]) can prevent Hart/City's first Clean Sheet (hopefully of many) of the season.

FULL TIME ANALYSIS: 7 changes for City in the starting 11, and this is probably the best they've looked all season. I know it's Sunderland, but it's not like they've only faced top quality clubs until now.

This could easily have been a 5+ Goal Differential padding game, but City just didn't get the goals they probably deserved with how much they dominated the match.

Second place in the table, however briefly. I'll take it. Now it's time for City to step it up in the UCL.
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