Title blow for City after 1-0 loss at Sunderland
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Seven months after winning the Premier League with Manchester City, Adam Johnson inflicted a blow to his former club's title defense by clinching a 1-0 victory for Sunderland on Wednesday.
The England winger, who was considered surplus to requirements at City in the offseason, embarrassed former teammate Joe Hart with a dipping strike in the 53rd minute that beat the goalkeeper at the near post.
The setback left second-place City seven points behind leader Manchester United at the season's halfway point.
"We had a lot of chances, we played well, but we didn't score,'' City manager Roberto Mancini said. "This is our problem, we don't score. We don't score enough goals to win the game.
"Last year, we scored one, two, three goals every game. Now when we have chances, we are too soft and this is not good. We are too soft in attack, too soft when we have chances, too soft when we shoot.''
Sunderland turned in one of its best displays of the season, with Hart having to turn away Steven Fletcher's skidding effort and keep out Stephane Sessegnon late on.
But Sunderland goalkeeper Simon Mignolet was also alert to deny Yaya Toure and David Silva before the break, and Sergio Aguero in the second half as City slumped to a third consecutive 1-0 loss at Sunderland.
"They are very lucky against us,'' Mancini said. "They defend well, but we need to be stronger.''
City might have been ahead with just eight minutes gone. Captain Vincent Kompany's header came back off the crossbar and Yaya Toure's goalbound follow-up was hacked away by Mignolet.
Silva curled a 10th-minute free-kick wastefully over the bar and Toure saw a curling effort plucked from underneath the crossbar by Mignolet three minutes later.
City was pinning Sunderland deep inside its own half and it seemed only a matter of time before they made the pressure tell.