Nasri (56mins), Lescott (59mins), Balotelli (90+3pen)
Defoe (60mins), Bale (64mins)
- Matchday centre
- Match reports
- 22 January 2012 15:30
- Posted by Chris Bailey
After the phony war conducted through what seemed like hundreds of pages of print and hours of television and radio came the real thing.
And what a game – or rather forty-five minutes - it was. Soporific Sunday morphed spectacularly into Super Sunday indeed with four goals in nine mad-cap minutes and a last minute winner that cemented City’s place as odds-on title favourites.
And guess what, Joe Jordan wasn’t set upon Roberto Mancini, no imaginary cards were flashed, all the big players shone and the league title wasn’t won or lost!
A record crowd at a windswept Etihad Stadium witnessed a pulsating duel between two sides with genuine – whatever Mr Redknapp senior might say about ‘just’ finishing in the top four – ambitions of being number one on the Premier League podium in Olympic year.
Yes table-topping City contrived to let slip a two-goal lead built in the early mind-spinning minutes of the second half but all ended gloriously thanks to an injury time penalty thanks to who else – Mario Balotelli.
The scoring began in the 56th minute when David Silva’s wonderful pass sent Samir Nasri racing clear and he made no mistake drilling the ball past Brad Friedel with all the joy that comes with being an ex-Gunner.
That ought to have been that but Stefan Savic’s poor header allowed Jermain Defoe to pull one back within a minute and the clock hands had barely moved again before Gareth Bale swept home a magnificent equaliser.
Suddenly all over the pitch individual comparisons were drawn. Micah Richards versus Kyle Walker, David Silva and Luka Modric, Jermain Defoe and Sergio Aguero to name but three and a draw looked certain until deep into injury time.
Balotelli crumpled under King’s challenge, referee Webb pointed to the spot and Balotelli held his nerve – as you knew he would.
What an end to a scintillating scrap that was something of a slow burner.
The first half was not so much cat and mouse as mouse and mouse with neither side able to completely lift the defensive shutters.
Silva made the best chance of the opening forty-five with a run into the box and pull back but, not for the first time in the week, Aguero and Dzeko got in each other’s way and the ball was sent spinning wide.
Wizard Silva then flashed a shot across the face of a goal during another promising foray but Hart remained untroubled in the home goal.
Friedel made the first meaningful stop on the half hour spreading himself well to block Aguero’s drive after Richards had worked his way into the box and provided a fine pass. The save was smart but the Argentine would have been disappointed with his finish.
Not so Balotelli from 12 yards who sent the ground into raptures, blew a big hole in Spurs bid to reach the summit and made it 11 wins out of 11 at home in the league.
Just for good measure, Mancini’s great entertainers have now scored as many goals this season as they did in the whole of the last one.