By Robert Morris
Fiery Italian Mario Balotelli (photo) netted twice before seeing red in a 0-2 win against West Bromwich Albion.
Defeats to Arsenal and Wolves have dented City’s title aspirations of late, while the 3-1 loss in Poland on Thursday left Robert Mancini praying his stars could justify their price tags against newly promoted West Brom at The Hawthorns. There was good news for City fans before kick-off, as captain Carlos Tevez returned into the starting-eleven at the expense of Emmanuel Adebayor.
The Blues started the game brightly and were two-nil up just under the half-hour mark. The first of which was made by a lovely pass from David Silva to Tevez down the right. The Argentine drilled a deadly ball across the face of the goal, which allowed Balotelli to slot in at the far post. Six minutes later, ‘Super Mario’ grabbed his second. Another delightful pass from Silva found Balotelli on the edge of the box. Using his strength, the twenty-year-old turned the defender before slotting a finish low beyond Scott Carson.
The game was over, even at this stage. The home side did come close in the 54th minute when Simon Cox struck the post from range; however, they were unable to break down a organised City back-line.
Despite the lack of goals, there were incidents a plenty in the second-half. Balotelli demonstrated both sides to his character when he kicked out at Youssouf Mulumbu. A moment of madness from the £24million striker, saw him given a straight red card.
Although City had dropped to ten men, the points were well and truly secure. Never more so than when, late into the game, Mulumbu was shown a red card of his own after a cynical challenge on Tevez.
Despite all the talk of a crisis this week, Manchester City have now earned 15 points in their last seven games, which is more than both Arsenal and Chelsea. A win against rivals Manchester United on Wednesday night could put City back in the title race.