ROBERTO MANCINI blamed luck for Manchester City’s defeat to Sunderland yesterday, but, in truth, his team selection played just as big a part.
The City manager made six changes to the side which ominously drew with West Brom on Boxing Day and that decision to weaken his team, just as they were showing signs of stuttering over Christmas, backfired badly.
The strategy was to save the big guns for Liverpool tomorrow night while fielding a team which should still have been strong enough to overcome Sunderland.
It looked like a sound enough policy before kick-off.
But City came up short in that opening 45 minutes and though the manager made changes to strengthen his side in the second half, they just could not get the breaks in front of goal as Sunderland’s players and supporters became increasingly pumped up with hope and belief.
Mancini was right to bemoan his luck – on another day City would have won by several goals – but it was somewhat naïve for him, if not arrogant, to perhaps take Sunderland a little too lightly.
The Italian, though, put himself beyond reproach, choosing instead to believe that only the vagaries of football had robbed his side of all three points.
“It’s frustrating not to win when you have so many chances to score,” he growled.
“We deserved to win the game – it’s incredible we did not – but this is football.
“Having said that, last season at Sunderland, it was the same situation where we lost it in the last minute to a penalty.
“We had loads of chances last year, too, but lost the game in the end.”
Although he was irritated by the fact his side could not score, he was absolutely raging that his players had gone defensively AWOL in the closing stages.
“Sunderland had two or three chances on the counter-attack at the end of the game and that is far too many,” he said. “We are a top team and top teams can’t afford too allow too many chances in the dying stages.
“At times, we seemed to want to attack with 10 players, but, if you are going to do that, you have to get back as well and we didn’t.
“We wanted to win the game – that’s why we pushed forward so much – and I think we were unlucky.
“But sometimes in games where you are struggling to win you have to remember that it is also important not to concede either – to accept that, even if you can’t win the game, you can at least extend your total by a point.
“Apparently the goal was offside, but, even so, we have to realise that we can’t give opponents one, two or three chances in the closing stages.
“We have now faced two teams defending with many players in their box and that has not made it easy for us, but we have missed good chances and we have to remember that as well.
“It is tough for us at the moment – we are going through an unlucky spell where we are just not converting our chances. If we had done so, it would have made all the difference.”