Good afternoon Premier League fans. Thanks for joining Sports Mole
for live coverage of the pre-season clash between Manchester City
, who will contest the Barclays Asia Trophy final in Hong Kong today.
Sunderland can take plenty of positives from their trip to the Far East this week after a string of new signings starred in their 3-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur earlier this week. Emanuele Giaccherini
, Jozy Altidore
all played their part in that semi-final success, and are expected to feature again against City.
New City boss Manuel Pellegrini
watched his side ease through a 1-0 win over South China on Wednesday, but will surely expect more from his talent-laden squad today. Edin Dzeko
got the only goal in that match, with Fernandinho
and Yaya Toure
both occupying central midfield for the first time as a pair, supported by Gareth Barry
Adverse weather conditions in Hong Kong have threatened this competition from the outset, with five days worth of torrential leaving the pitch a bog at best. Thankfully the playing surface is just about suitable to get a game on today, despite the rain continuing to pour on the Hong Kong Stadium for much of this morning.
Both sides have named very strong starting XI's for today's all-Premier League clash, in search of pre-season silverware and match fitness. A full look at both lineups, which includes a debut for City striker Alvaro Negredo
, will be up in full very shortly.
MANCHESTER CITY: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Kompany, Nastasic, Clichy, Milner, Garcia, Toure, Silva, Dzeko, Negredo
Mannone, Brown, Cabral
, O'Shea, Colback, Larsson, Gardner, Johnson, Sessegnon, Giaccherini, Altidore
All eyes will be on Negredo for City fans today who get their first chance to watch the Spanish international striker. Negredo will be partnered in attack by Dzeko, which should see Pellegrini's side revert to a 4-4-2 formation.
Pellegrini has also decided to swap Fernandinho
for Javi Garcia in midfield, while Matija Nastasic starts ahead of Joleon Lescott
in central defence. There is also a chance for Costel Pantilimon to impress between the sticks, with Joe Hart
City fans could also get a chance to watch Jesus Navas later today, with the winger included among nine-man bench by Pellegrini. Samir Nasri, Fernandinho, Jack Rodwell and Gareth Barry
are also named as substitutes.
Sunderland are unchanged from Wednesday's win over Spurs, with Stephane Sessegnon
playing just behind Altidore in attack. Emanuele Giacherrini also continues in midfield, with Wes Brown
and John O'Shea
maintaining their bid for full fitness in central defence.
PREDICTION! As the rain continues to fall heavily a the Hong Kong Stadium there is just for to pick a winner of the sixth Barclays Asia Trophy. I think Sunderland will really push for a victory today, and are capable of springing an upset if tired legs don't kick in late on. I'll go for a 1-1 draw, with the Black Cats to triumph on penalties.
Here we go then, pre-match pleasantries are just about over at the Hong Kong Stadium, with captains Kompany and O'Shea swapping pendants. City will kickoff, shooting from left to right.
City settle quickly with an assured spell of possession from deep, but Adam Johnson is quick to get involved as he forced a mistake from Nastasic inside his own half. Di Canio will be pleased with that start from the winger, who looks ready to work hard against his former club.
A swift break from Sunderland sees Giaccherini and Sessegnon roam into the final third, before picking out Johnson inside the penalty area with a teasing pass. The winger quickly clips the ball towards the six-yard box, but is unable to find a teammate as City scramble clear.
Toure concedes a free kick around 35 yards from goal after a late tackle on Colback, giving Larsson the chance to cross from deep. His whipped delivery is flicked on by Brown, but his touch can only send the ball well beyond Pantilimon's far post. A very encouraging start here for the Black Cats.
GOAL! Manchester City 1-0 Sunderland (Dzeko)
A quite sensational strike from Dzeko has given City the lead out of almost nothing. With their first attack a long ball towards Zabaelta in the penalty area was cleared by Wes Brown
. On the edge of the area Dzeko watches the ball land before executing a volley with precision, giving Mannone no chance as the ball nestled just inside his near post. A superb strike from the much-maligned Bosnian marksman.
SHOT! City nearly double their lead as Sunderland are caught napping by a quick pass forward. Silva's long ball found Negredo, who burst past O'Shea's hopeful appeals for offside with ease. The striker approached goal with time and space, but from a tight angle went for power and lashed well over the crossbar.
If anything the rain is now getting heavier in Hong Kong, making passing football very difficult for either side. Johnson attempts to play a pass across the pitch towards Larsson, but Milner spots the danger quickly to hoist clear for a throw-in.
Negredo is providing a direct, physical outlet for City, which in these conditions must be most welcome. The forward decides to test Mannone from range, but the Sunderland keeper is easily equal to his central drive from distance.
Giaccherini wins a corner for Sunderland, as his curling effort is blocked behind by Kompany. Brown and O'Shea are both forward for the Black Cats, but fail to prevent City clearing a curling cross with authority. Altidore is quick to put City back under pressure though, winning a free kick from Nastasic out wide thanks to strong hold-up play.
Nastasic atones for his error by blocking Larsson's shot from range, with Colback's clever lofted pass just failing to find Giaccherini's forward run soon after. Brown then clatters into a challenge with Dzeko, but thankfully both men are quickly back to their feet and free of injury.
Milner's wayward pass fails to spot a clever diagonal run from Silva, much to the Spaniard's bemusement. Sunderland then look for a slick interchange between Giaccherini and Sessegnon, which comes within inches of working as a chipped cross trickles past the penalty area.
Sunderland definitely have variety in a new-look attack, but O'Shea's long pass in search of Altidore finds the burly striker in an offside position. At the other end Silva's deft pass opens up a static Mackems defence, but Negredo and Dzeko are both slow to react inside the penalty area.
Negredo has a clever chipped strike swiftly ruled out for offside, before Dzeko's low drive stays central enough for Mannone to gather from close range. Both strikers look to be enjoying working a partner in the final third, in a formation which has become increasingly rare in the modern game.
Dzeko and Negredo combine once more, with the Spaniard smashing a half-volley high, wide and handsome from 12 yards. Silva then darts towards the penalty area, but his attempted through ball is cut out by a sliding interception from Larsson. Sunderland just need to weather the storm now until half-time, and Johnson quickly helps by winning a corner kick on the far side.
Giaccherini picks out Johnson in a wide area as Sunderland look to build a measured attack in the final third. Cabral, Larsson and Gardner are all involved in a sustained build-up, which is eventually halted as Altidore fails to control a pass just outside the penalty area.
Giaccherini is quickly involved again and tries his luck from 20 yards, but his curling strike lacks power and allows Pantilimon to make a routine catch. The pace has noticeably dropped in the last five minutes, which in these wet, humid conditions is not really a huge surprise.
Nastasic fouls Altidore for the third time today, handing Sunderland a free kick around 30 yards from goal. Johnson takes and crosses deep towards the far post, with Giahccerini just about keeping the ball in play out wide. City rob possession and break with pace, but Negredo's cross towards Dzeko is just cut out by a covering defender.
The conditions are now bordering on farcial, with Negredo nearly bullying his way past two defenders, as Brown and Cabral both struggle to keep their footing.
OFF THE BAR! Colback brings down Milner just inside first-half stoppage time. When the free kick comes in Nastatsic makes contact with a strong header at the back post, which comes back off the woodwork with the aid of a deflection from Gardner.
HALF TIME Manchester City 1-0 Sunderland
Well full credit to both sides, who continue to work hard and attempt to give a capacity crowd in Hong Kong their best despite terrible conditions. City just about deserve their lead at the break, which comes courtesy of a brilliant volley from Dzeko.
Sunderland actually started the match brightly, pressing high up the pitch and forcing mistakes from Pellegrini's side. That promising opening was quickly undone by Dzeko though, as the Bosnian controlled a superb volley into the far corner. That takes Dzeko's tally to two in as many games in the Far East, signalling his intention to fight for a first-team place under a new coach.
has also looked very sharp in his first start since returning from Confederations Cup duty. The Spaniard has come in off the left flank regularly, finding Negredo and Dzeko with a series of clever forward passes.
Negredo's presence and movement has also been a big plus of City fans. The striker likes to operate on the shoulder of the last defender, using power and quick thinking to evade his marker. Those qualities should definitely serve the former Sevilla striker well in the Premier League this season.
Di Canio also has some positives to take from the first period, with Giaccerini regularly bursting forward from the midfield with energy and purpose. The Black Cats are still in this match, but must work harder to provide Altidore with meaningful service in the final third.
SUBSTITUTIONS! City have made a pair of positive changes at the break, swapping Silva and Milner for Navas and Nasri. The gives City fans their first chance to watch the Spanish winger, who is blessed with pace and skill in abundance.
Sunderland have also made three changes to their side, with El-Hadji Ba and Conor Wickham introduced in place of Cabral and Altidore. Keiren Westwood also gets a chance in goal, replacing Vito Mannone
The second half begins with Johnson roaming down the right wing, breaking clear before eventually being brought down next to the corner flag by a swipe from Clichy. He elects to take the free kick, with Sessegnon unable to make full contact with a header at the far post.
For the second time this week Nasri is roundly booed during his first touch by the Hong Kong crowd, perhaps a legacy from his departure from Arsenal two years ago. Clichy is quickly tested again by a deep ball towards Johnson, but Nastasic helps his teammate by clearing with an intelligent covering challenge.
Toure makes a venture forward in a wide position, but fails to meet a looping pass from Clichy as O'Shea finds distance on a clearance. City are quickly back on the attack through Navas, who shows neat feet to maintain possession under pressure from Ba.
Both sides are largely avoiding the centre circle, an area of the pitch which resembles a bog at this stage, covered in thick mud. Nasri continues to be greeted with jeers by a capacity crowd, but helps find Navas inside the final third. His short pass in search of Negredo falls short though, with the ball trickling behind for a goal kick.
Negredo gets a face full of mud after being clattered from behind by a knee from O'Shea on the halfway line. That was a very untidy challenge from the central defender, giving the new City striker a stern welcome to the English game.
SUBSTITUTIONS: A change for Sunderland, who decide to swap Johnson for David Karlsson. The young Swede scored late on against Spurs on Wednesday, and will looking to make a similar impact. City also take the chance to make a pair of changes, swapping Toure and Clichy for Fernandinho and Kolarov.
PENALTY TO CITY! Referee Anthony Taylor has awarded City a spot kick, after Ba handled Fernandinho's flick inside the box. A shame for Sunderland but that had to awarded after clear contact with the youngster's arm.
MISS! Dzeko steps up and blazes a horrid penalty at least five yards over the top corner. The Bosnian looks downward to blame the pitch, but quite honestly he can have no excuse for a quite spectacular miss.
Sunderland quickly build some momentum after Dzeko's penalty miss, with Karlsson using pace to win a pair of quick corner kicks. Di Canio's side are once again unable to make either set piece count, with City clearing their lines to march forward through Fernandinho.
Giaccherini wants a penalty kick after going down under a strong challenge from Kolarov, but the full-back clearly made contact with ball inside the box. At the other Nasri launches a swift City counter, which is brought to an abrupt end by a sliding tackle from Ba. The youngster is enduring a day to forget as he concedes a free kick, which is delayed by Nastasic requiring treatment for a muscle injury.
SUBSTITUTION: Unfortunately for Nastasic he is leaving the field on a stretcher in some discomfort, with Lescott hurried on to take his place in central defence. Hopefully that injury is not too serious for the young Serbian, with the Premier League kickoff just three weeks away.
OFF THE LINE! Another impressive display from Giaccherini comes to an end on 78 minutes, with the Italian international replaced by James McClean. When play resumes Navas comes within inches of a first City goal, with his low effort cleared off the line by a last-ditch block from Gardner.
SUBSTITUTION: Barry replaces Negredo in a late, conservative change for City, who are now looking to maintain their narrow advantage. A reminder that a late Sunderland equaliser would see the Asia Trophy decided on penalty kicks, a prospect Dzeko would surely dread!
Wickham drops deep to send a diagonal pass out wide for McClean, in a strong passage of play from the young forward. Gardner then offers help inside, with Lescott conceding a soft free kick despite seeming to rob possession from Wickham cleanly. From just outside the penalty area surely this is a chance for Larsson to equalise?
SAVE! Larsson's strike is hit with power towards the far side, but Pantilimon reads the shot all the way to make a strong stop with both hands. McClean reacts quickest from the rebound to send a chipped cross back into the danger zone, but fails to find a red and white shirt.
Navas breaks free with pace and purpose inside the final third, with a floated pass towards Dzeko just failing to find its intended target. A break in play then allows Sunderland to make one final change, swapping Sessegnon for pacy youngster Mikael Mandron.
FULL TIME Manchester City 1-0 Sunderland
In the end Dzeko's early goal was enough to separate the two sides and hand City the Barclays Asia Trophy for the first time. The full-time whistle is greeted by a set of fireworks at the Hong Kong Stadium, which has somehow managed to survive a week of torrential rain to finish this pre-season tournament.
Pellegrini's side just about deserved to edge victory today, despite a sustained, spirited effort from Sunderland. A successful trip to Asia saw City win two on the spin, with Kompany leading his troops up to collect the Asia Trophy as I write.
With trophies and medals handed out, that is our coverage from the Asia Trophy just about at a close. Thanks for staying with Sports Mole this afternoon, and be sure to check back all weekend for comprehensive coverage of pre-season action across the globe.