Fuming Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini insists the referee missed an obvious foul in the build-up to Sunderland’s goal, condemning his side to defeat.
A second successive winter loss at the Stadium of Light came after a shot from ex-Blue Adam Johnson squirmed off Joe Hart’s gloves in the second half.
But Mancini’s anger lay with referee Kevin Friend as the Italian believed Pablo Zabaleta was caught in the lead-up to the Black Cats’ goal, and was less than complimentary in his comments.
“Maybe Zabaleta deserved a red card,” said Mancini.
“You need to ask the referee why it was given, not me. I was there and I saw that it was a big foul – it’s impossible that two men couldn’t see it.
“Maybe the referee ate too much for Christmas.”
The Blues took one point from a possible six against Sunderland in last season’s title-winning campaign, including a comeback to draw after going 3-1 behind at the Etihad Stadium.
And after a domestic run in which City have only scored nine times in seven games since a five-goal rout of Aston Villa, Mancini admits his strikers need to produce.
“It’s the same story for us at Sunderland every year, we are not going to come here next season. But last year we didn’t win here and we won the title,” said the Italian.
“It’s important that our strikers start scoring more goals, sometimes we take one touch too many.
“We missed five or six chances in the first half, and we need to score first in games sometimes. We can’t recover all the time.”
City are now seven points behind Premier League leaders Manchester United, but have the chance to make amends for the loss when they face against Norwich City in three days’ time.