Roberto Mancini looked utterly perplexed. As well he should -- he'd just seen his Manchester City side lost 1-0 to Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. It didn't help that the winner came in controversial circumstances, with the Black Cats striking while Pablo Zabaleta was down and claiming a foul, but the weird goal doesn't make the dropped points any less painful.
The visitors began the match on the front foot, keeping Sunderland pinned in their own penalty box and forcing Simon Mignolet into several scrambles for the ball. But despite holding possession and continually probing around the area, City -- who saw Vincent Kompany hit the crossbar and David Silva and Yaya Toure denied by the keeper -- simply couldn't score. That was bad news for the visitors.
Sunderland issued a warning when Steven Fletcher forced Joe Hart into a sprawling save 25 minutes in, but their breakthrough didn't come until the 53rd minute. Zabaleta went down on the City left, but play was waved on and the hosts broke into the space that would have been occupied by the fullback.
Adam Johnson took full advantage of the situation, cutting inside and firing a speculative effort towards Hart's near post. The goalkeeper should have had it covered, but let the shot slip under an outstretched arm and trundle into the back of the net.
There was to be no grand response from the defending champions. City pushed bodies forward, but the closest they came to equalising would be when Mignolet blocked a one-on-one effort from Sergio Aguero. Sunderland were nearer to adding to the scoresheet, but ultimately they wouldn't have to. Ninety-four minutes of football resulted in a 1-0 loss for City, and with Manchester United winning the gap at the top of the table is now up to seven points.