A BEMUSED Mick McCarthy last night admitted he could not excuse the "ridiculous" handball that led to the dismissal of Sunderland skipper Gary Breen in the latter stages of yesterday's 2-1 defeat to Manchester City.

And, as he bemoaned the litany of "bad decisions" that had littered his side's 22nd Premiership reverse this season, the Black Cats boss admitted Breen's moment of madness was impossible to explain.

After picking up an unnecessary yellow card following a first-half altercation with Albert Riera, Breen made a bizarre attempt to block David James' late throw with both arms.

The resultant dismissal was as inevitable as it was inexcusable and provided a fittingly underwhelming end to a performance that had already been strewn with errors.

The Republic of Ireland international is out of contract in the summer and, with the Black Cats sure to cut their cloth once their inevitable return to the Championship is concerned, his actions at the City of Manchester Stadium hardly enhanced his prospects of a new deal.

"It was ridiculous," said a clearly annoyed McCarthy, who has a right to expect more from a seasoned international. "That's all I can say. I think to say it was ridiculous is enough.

"Gary is a professional guy, to be fair to him. But he has done that and there's no getting away from it.

"What makes you do things in games? I don't know. We made some bad decisions in the game. Gary doing that was certainly a bad decision."

Sadly, for Sunderland, it was not the first made by a visiting defender. Both Breen and fellow centre-half, Danny Collins, had already contributed to their side's downfall during a disastrous opening ten minutes.

Collins was entirely responsible for City's first goal, dithering on the edge of the penalty area before turning back towards goal and conceding possession to Georgios Samaras. Breen was at fault for the home side's second, playing Trevor Sinclair onside before Samaras was left all alone to double his tally.

"We started dreadfully and gave two goals away," said McCarthy. "We ask them to play at the back and we can do that. But it's all about decision making.

"If the ball is rolled back to you and you are under pressure as a defender, kick it as far away as possible and then squeeze up to defend the next one. It was a bad decision by Danny and he knows that.

"I have spoken to them. When you make errors like that, it's an individual thing. Danny is a better player than that and he showed it in the second half when he defended well.

"His response was a feather in his cap. Having done what he did - bearing in mind that he was playing at Chester 18 months ago - it was encouraging that he played as well as he did in the second half."

By then, though, it was too late. Sunderland rallied after their dreadful opening and clawed their way back into the game with Kevin Kyle's first Premiership goal.

But they were unable to add to their tally and, despite the Black Cats enjoying plentiful possession in the second half, City endured few scares as they completed a Premiership double over their opponents.

"Because we have lost the game, it looks bad," said McCarthy. "But if you look at Manchester City, we have caught them in possession and broken them down to create chances.

"The story would have been so different if we had scored one of those chances at the end. We should have done.

"It's great when you win because it masks all kind of things. When you've lost, it looks as though nothing is right.

"We need to keep scrapping, trying to play as well as we did for most of the game, and stop giving those stupid bloody goals away. If we do that, we might have a chance of winning some games."