The result was just what the Doctor ordered, but it was not without cost in terms of the red card shown to master goalscorer Balotelli.
At a stadium where City regularly find the going tough and where results are few, the boing boingers firmly had their feet nailed to the floor yesterday as Mancini’s big hitters began to show their value.
The exception to that was Milner who found himself out of the line-up as he fails to live up to expectations. There was no such failure from Mario Balotelli yesterday.
The starting eleven looked to be packed with opportunities, attack-minded players who can also hold their own if needed in midfield. And so it proved as City moved the ball around early at a blistering pace. Silva fast becoming the main protagonist, has eyes like lasers and he spots the runs of other players almost before they’ve started.
City dominated the early exchanges and after 20 minutes took full advantage as Balotelli, starting a move in City’s own half, motored on into the six yard box. Behind him one of the passes of the season from Silva was cut back to maaet Tevez angles run and his first time daisy cutter along the six yard line found Balotelli in traffic but his strike to the far post caught out Carson and two defenders in masterful fashion, and as they all hugged the near post, the ball went in the other corner.
Six minutes later and another exquisite pass form Silva found Balotelli on the edge of the box, again well-attended, but his muscular frame was too much for the Albion defenders as he held them off to score once again across Carson in the bottom corner.
You will recall that I have said on a number of occasions that what City needs is a ‘goal hanger’, someone to translate the passes that Silva makes into goals. Ladies and Gentlemen I give you..Mario Balotelli. I said also that we need someone combative, like Uwe Rosler, who can stick the ball in the net like Paul Walsh, once again I give you…Mario Balotelli.
What I did not want to give you was the other side of the complicated coin that is …Marion Balotelli.
Albion had made a fist of the match in many senses. They hit the woodwork twice, once with Hart beaten and once following a bagatelle situation with rebounds off several players before Silva shunted in on to the bar.
Mulumba had clearly been detailed to ruffle a few feathers and he started with the goalscorer. Finding Balotelli already on a yellow, Mulumba hit him from behind, pulling shirts and holding on to his arms legs just about everything. Balotelli pushed him out of the way and in his haste to free his body looked as though he kicked out at his adversary. Up came the referee brandishing a red card. All in a day’s work for Mario as he trudged off much to his own chagrin. Mulumba didn’t even know he’d got a yellow card out of this deal so probably felt it was in order that, having disposed of Balotelli, he could turn his attention to Tevez. A scything unnecessary tackle from behind on Tevez saw him join Balotelli down the tunnel, leaving him busy telling the referee it was only his first card!
Both teams went close towards the end. Tevez free kick went just over with Carson grabbing handfuls of fresh air, and Joe Hart was forced into an excellent save from a similar free kick, just outside the box.
This was a much better all round performance. Yaya got his passing game going, Silva was just magic, the back line reasonably solid, Kolo returning to the better days of early season, the full backs quick and robust. But the match clearly belonged to Balotelli.
Here we have a man who is impatient, who is more TGV than SNCF, more Pendolino than Tank Engine, more Concorde than Brabazon. A man in a hurry to become the world’s best footballer and a man who knows he can get there.
Every time he has pulled on the Blue Shirt, however, he has found his way into the ref’s notebook at least once.
Mancini’s task is to harness the talent that Mario clearly has and to iron out the part of his game that could leave us in trouble if we are not 2-0 up and playing against better opposition. Complete that task, Roberto and many of your prayers will be answered. A two-pronged attack with Balotelli and Tevez could be a dream ticket and an express route to the Champions League.
THE MANCHESTER DERBY ON VMC:
Head for the VMC Match Day Experience Forum for the build up and beyond to City’s crunch clash with the rags.