Pep Guardiola has started his Manchester City reign with a 2-1 victory over Sunderland on their first encounter of the new Premier League season.
Despite a dominant performance in possession, City looked to be on course for a draw after Jermain Defoe had cancelled out Sergio Aguero’s early opener, but Paddy McNair’s 87th-minute own goal ensured that the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss got off to a winning start.
However, it was Sunderland who were the first to threaten as they began their new era under David Moyes, with Fabio Borini’s free kick being palmed away by Wilfredo Caballero before Duncan Watmore could only loop a header onto the roof of the net moments later.
That proved to be a rare foray into the Man City third for the Black Cats, and the hosts scored their first goal of Guardiola’s reign after just four minutes when Aguero tucked his penalty home after Patrick van Aanholthad brought down Raheem Sterling inside the area.
City had won each of their last five Premier League openers, while Sunderland were winless in their last six, so it was no surprise to see the hosts move into such an early lead, and their subsequent dominance of possession was also expected.
However, they struggled to turn that into clear chances, with Aguero dragging one shot into the arms of Vito Mannone before Sterling dipped into a shooting position and curled his finish off target.
Nolito was one of two summer signings handed their full City debuts, alongside the underworked John Stones, and the Spaniard was the next to threaten when he cut inside before looking to pick out the far top corner from a tight angle, only to fire it a yard or so wide.
Kevin de Bruyne then fired a 30-yard effort wide of the target before Sunderland almost had an equaliser against the run of play in the closing stages of the half when Defoe flicked a volley goalwards, only to be denied by an important stop from Caballero..
Jack Rodwell provided the rare sniff of goal for Defoe, who kept his composure to slide the ball under Caballero and open his account for the new season. It was also the 16th different Premier League campaign that the veteran striker has scored in, becoming only the eighth player to achieve that feat.
Despite being on the verge of dropping early points in the title race, City’s high performance didn’t increase until the very closing stages of the match, with a wild De Bruyne effort the sum of their reply before the final five minutes.
Guardiola’s blushes were spared with a little help from the other half of Manchester, though, as McNair, who joined from United earlier this week, marked his debut with an own goal as Jesus Navas’s cross bounced in off his head.
The defender knew very little about it, but his unwitting involvement proved to be the deciding factor in the game as City squandered another late opportunity through Kelechi Iheanacho.
The hosts saw out the victory in the closing stages to ensure a winning start to their campaign despite a performance which was at times not encouraging while Sunderland remains goaless