It had been billed as a test of Manchester City's ability to cope with the demands of fighting on several fronts, but despite playing in the Champions League on Wednesday, City showed no signs of sluggishness as they made light work of a disappointing Sunderland.
The Black Cats' central midfield of Jack Colback and Sebastian Larsson was always going to struggle against the likes of Yaya Toure and David Silva, and so it proved as City dominated the game from kick-off. City only had to wait five minutes before getting themselves in front, Aleksandr Kolarov blasting a ferocious free-kick past Simon Mignolet after Carlos Cuellar brought down Carlos Tevez outside the box with a poor challenge.
From that point onwards, Sunderland rarely looked like threatening City's lead, but despite the Citizens' dominance, they struggled to fashion any clear chances, with Pablo Zabaleta and Carlos Tevez going closest during one goalmouth scramble.
As the teams came out for the second half, there were no changes in personnel and no changes in the flow of play either, as Sunderland continued to struggle, but the contest was soon to open up. Yaya Toure surged into the box following a David Silva backheel, but his shot was too close to Mignolet, who tipped over. From the resulting corner, Danny Rose was called into action to clear off the line to keep Sunderland in the game.
The Black Cats then had some chances of their own: Sebastien Larsson robbed Gareth Barry in midfield and found Steven Fletcher with an arcing pass, but the Scot's volley was well blocked by Micah Richards. Shortly afterwards, Fletcher had another decent chance, doing well to get power on a header from another floating pass from Larsson, but Joe Hart saved well at his near post, and the linesman's flag made sure that the chance had gone.
Just as things were beginning to look up for Sunderland, however, City struck again. Sergio Aguero, having recently replaced Mario Balotelli, got on the end of a Kolarov cross to direct a superb finish into the top corner of Simon Mignolet's net. From then on, Sunderland faded badly - City were to enjoy a host of chances immediately afterwards, including David Silva hitting the bar with a chip after Mignolet had charged off his goal-line.
Manchester City seemed to cut Sunderland apart at will for the remainder, but were unable to find the back of the net. The partnership of Aguero and Tevez still looks to be City's best: the number of chances created was considerably higher with the pair leading the line, particularly after Balotelli put in such an anonymous display.
On 88 minutes, Manchester City gave the scoreline the gloss the performance deserved, with James Milner curling a free-kick past Simon Mignolet from an acute angle after a foul by Craig Gardner. Gardner had continued at right-back despite the return of Carlos Cuellar, but put in a poor display, not only giving away the free-kick but also failing to intercept the ball and obscuring his goalkeeper's view to allow it to creep in.
Manchester City will be glad to have coped so well with what could've been a dangerous fixture, and Roberto Mancini will be pleased that his side didn't seem to suffer the effects of a continental hangover. Although his side were hardly favourites, Martin O'Neill should still be disappointed - his side offered very little throughout the match, and were guilty of some poor defending for both City goals and a lack of composure during their rare forays into the final third. Sunderland's first defeat of the season is no surprise considering the opposition, but there is much to contemplate for O'Neill.