Frank Lampard is much more than just an afterthought for Manchester City
Frank Lampard, an apparent after-thought when Manchester City added him to their squad in August, topped 24 hours in which he had found himself mired in a dispute between two of his employers by scoring the winning goal in an extraordinary second half here.
The former England international, who completed his signing at the Etihad Stadium for the remainder of the season just hours before the end of the old year ostensibly from MLS club New York City, capped a sequence that saw the game produce five goals in 16 minutes and City, for the second time in four days, gift away a two-goal advantage at home.
Pegged back to 2-2, City had energetic attacking left-back Gael Clichy to thank for his persistence and deft crossing touch as he clipped over a centre which allowed Lampard to capitalise on a slip by Wes Brown, who moved away from his opponent, and steer a superb header into the corner of the Sunderland goal.
"I repeat, I don't think anybody can be surprised by Frank Lampard," said Pellegrini. "That's why we brought him here at the beginning of the season. It's very important now that he will stay with us until the end of the season."
There had been no indication of the drama yet to unfold during a turgid first half in which Sunderland expertly followed Gus Poyet's game plan and packed 10 men into their own penalty area, often for minutes on end, in a successful attempt to frustrate the hosts.
But the first sign of an error was ruthlessly exploited by the defending champions on 57 minutes as Clichy worked the ball in from the left to Stevan Jovetic who, in turn, found Toure who beat Costel Pantillimon with a magnificent 22-yard strike.
Nine minutes later, they were again punished after Clichy was allowed space down the left and Jovetic allowed even more room inside the six-yard area to score with a superb back heel.
Just four days earlier, City had been in a similar position and had allowed a two-goal lead to slip in a 2-2 draw with Burnley but that lesson clearly failed to leave an impression on Pellegrini's side.
After 68 minutes, another former City player Jack Rodwell was left unmarked to steer Seb Larsson's corner past Willy Caballero in the City goal with a deft header.
And two minutes after that, it was yet another ex-City man, the winger Adam Johnson, who equalised from the penalty spot.
An unstoppable left-foot finish placed City under intense pressure - and then Lampard came off the bench.
MAN CITY: Caballero, Zabaleta, Mangala, Demichelis, Clichy, Fernandinho, Toure, Navas, Silva 7(Milner, 89 mins), Nasri (Kolarov, 84 mins), Jovetic (Lampard, 70 mins). Subs not used: Sagna, Sinclair, Boyata, Hart
Goals: Toure 56, Jovetic 66, Lampard 73
SUNDERLAND: Pantilimon, Vergini (Coates, 77 mins), O'Shea, Brown, Jones, Rodwell, Johnson, Gomez (Giaccherini, 57 mins), Larsson, Buckley (Alvarez, 65 mins), Wickham. Subs not used: Fletcher, Cabral, Altidore, Mannone
Goals: Rodwell 68, Johnson 72
Man of the match: Yaya Toure.
Match rating: 8/10
Referee: Roger East