Frank Lampard showed his value to Manchester City on Thursday by clinching a 3-2 victory over Sunderland just one day after extending his deal with the club until the end of the season.
After City threw away a 2-0 lead, the 36-year-old Lampard spared City’s blushes with a milestone goal in the 73rd minute. The former Chelsea midfielder moved to fourth place on the Premier League’s all-time scoring leaderboard by netting for the 176th time in the division, heading in from Gael Clichy’s cross.
By now Lampard was due to be getting ready for his Major League Soccer career with City’s new sister club New York City FC. But Man City announced late on Wednesday that Lampard would be staying until the end of the season to be part of the second-place team’s title push.
A dull contest burst into life after Yaya Toure broke the deadlock with a stunning strike after 57 minutes. Four more goals followed in the next 16 minutes as Stevan Jovetic added a second for City and Sunderland hit back through former City players Jack Rodwell and Adam Johnson.
It then fell to substitute Lampard to score his seventh goal for City.
What unfolded in the second half came in remarkable contrast to the first half.
City, who had Willy Caballero in goal in place of the rested Joe Hart, dominated possession but Sunderland played deep.
City created an early opening with Jovetic flashing a shot wide after combining with David Silva but their opportunities were limited.
Toure, who gave City control of midfield after being rested for Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Burnley, sliced one chance from distance well wide and high.
City tried to up the tempo in the second half, and Jesus Navas shot wide within a minute of the restart, but the game appeared to be changing little until Toure finally struck.
City again seemed to be getting little joy as they looked to prize an opening in the Sunderland defense – but Toure opted for power. The Ivory Coast midfielder, who heads off to the African Cup of Nations next week, was lurking just outside the area when he raced onto Jovetic’s lay-off and smashed a shot into the top corner.
City then seemed to have made the game safe as Jovetic released Clichy down the left and then sprinted into the area to take his return pass and beat Costel Pantilimon with a neat flick.
But with the game having suddenly come to life, Sunderland produced a remarkable response to level with two quickfire goals.
Emanuele Giaccherini extended Caballero with a good shot but Rodwell got a firm header to Larsson’s cross from the resulting corner to pull a goal back.
City lost its discipline and was pulled apart moments later as Sunderland attacked again.
Ricardo Alvarez drove the ball across the box and Zabaleta felled Billy Jones attempting to stop the inrushing defender. Johnson made no mistake from the penalty spot.
But after Sunday’s frustration against Burnley, Lampard prevented a repeat.
Lampard might even have had further goals as he twice forced Pantilimon to save.