Sunderland were made to rue missed chances as Manchester City were at their clinical best to snatch all three Premier League 2 points at the Academy Stadium on Friday.
The Black Cats’ bright start turned to dust on eight minutes, Demeaco Duhaney tapped home following an incisive breakaway move.
Rees Greenwood was then left with his head in his hands as he passed up two huge chances to draw the lads level before Lukas Nmecha added more misery on 27 minutes as he doubled the hosts’ lead.
Lynden Gooch led the charge in the second 45, and he was able to halve the deficit with over 20 minutes to play as Sunderland sensed a comeback could be on the cards.
However, City ended any hopes of that as possession football paid fruition – Jadon Sancho curled an effort across goal and beyond the reach of Max Stryjek before Duhaney added a fourth in the closing stages to wrap up the victory.
With Tom Beadling and Andrew Nelson moving out on loan during the January transfer window, Elliott Dickman was forced to make a number of changes to his first Sunderland under-23s starting XI.
Elliot Embleton returned after missing last Sunday’s goalless draw against Liverpool while Josh Maja replaced Nelson up top. Gooch also featured as he continued to collect more minutes on his return from injury.
The young Black Cats produced an assured start to the game, Ethan Robson caused problems for Daniel Grimshaw with a top-corner bound free-kick before Josh Maja’s flick almost saw Rees Greenwood nick in behind.
Maja’s intelligence almost paid dividends a minute later, though, this time the striker dropped short before asking a question of Man City’s backline as he set Joel Asoro away over the top.
Gooch then lifted an effort past Grimshaw’s post as Dickman’s side looked to be turning the screw with just six minutes played.
Duhaney had other ideas, though, and with eight minutes on the clock, a swift breakaway moved saw the hosts go in front.
The full-back got forward from deep and as the ball came across from the left-hand side, he made mistake form six yards as he found the back of the net.
Sunderland dusted themselves down quickly and set about getting back into the match, however, Greenwood, missed two guilt-edge opportunities . . . something they would later come to rue.
A free-flowing counter-attack saw Maja skip clear, he then fed Gooch who picked out Greenwood at the back post only for his effort to be denied by a last-ditch tackle.
Dickman’s Cats continued to rally, though, and midway through the opening period Greenwood was denied for a second time as Grimshaw came to the Blues’ recue. Asoro timed his pass to perfection and while Greenwood got his shot away, City’s stopper rushed off his line to prevent the winger levelling the match.
And that proved to be a pivotal moment.
Four minutes later Nmecha beat the offside trap and coolly finished past a helpless Max Stryjek as City punished the lads.
While Sunderland went into the break two-goals behind, it could’ve been a very different story had they made the host of their chances in the first few minutes – and that gave them hope going into the second 45.
A tactical reshuffle saw Gooch lead the line as Asoro replaced him on the right flank, and it almost paid off as the American international’s ‘in your face’ pressing forced Grimshaw to hesitate as Gooch bore down on the stopper.
Gooch’s tenacious efforts continued as Sunderland chased down City’s two-goal lead, neat one-touch passing with 58 minutes gone ended as the American lashed over his strike over the bar.
Nine minutes, though, Gooch wasn’t to make the same mistake.
Swift passing inside the area saw the Californian-born star sweep home past Grimshaw to halve the deficit and set-up a grandstand finish.
Playing with their tails up, the Black Cats fought hard but City took the sting out of the game and forced it into a lull as they confidently knocked the ball around.
That, however, ended with a moment of individual magic, Sancho curled home a City third to restore their two-goal from the edge of the box and that ended Sunderland’s hopes of a comeback.
Lapse defending from Dickman’s side then saw Duhaney wrap up the victory with a fourth goal following further incisive counter-attacking football from the hosts.
Manchester City: Grimshaw, Duhaney, Humphreys, Adarabioyo, Francis, Diallo, Diaz, Kongolo (, Fernandes, 79), Nmecha (Buckley-Richetts, 88), Boadu, Sancho (Nemane, 87)
Subs not used: Patching, Muric
Sunderland: Stryjek, J Robson, T Robson, Embleton, Brady, Ledger, Asoro (Molyneux, 77), E Robson, Gooch (Hume, 87), Maja, Greenwood
Subs not used: Casey, Talbot, Wright