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Saturday 23 August 2014

The sporting moments that made 2012: City see sense after Mario sees red

DION FANNING

Published 30/12/2012 | 05:00

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Mario Balotelli didn't contest the fine imposed on him by Manchester City for indiscipline last season. If he had, Mario's lawyer would have had one unanswerable point to put before the tribunal: Balotelli's indiscipline ensured Manchester City won the Premier League.

If Balotelli hadn't been sent off at the Emirates in April, everything might have been different. City would have been left looking to Mario for inspiration when the man they needed was sitting on the bench, returned from his golf exile in South America.

On April 8 2012, Carlos Tevez hadn't started a game for Manchester City since a Carling Cup tie against Birmingham on September 21 2011. Six days after that, there was an incident in the workplace with Roberto Mancini on the sideline in Munich and City had to survive without him.

They won 6-1 at Old Trafford while he was suspended but at the Emirates in April, Balotelli was said to have cost Manchester City the title.

That night, Manchester United were eight points clear. They would play Wigan in midweek and Manchester United never had any problems with Wigan. All Manchester City could do was turn to a man who may or may not have been on strike for seven months.

Tevez certainly had been playing golf, developing the two sides of his character on the tracks of Argentina. One was the Tevez you saw on the field, the hardest working man in football who would appear to be a devoted and selfless team player. This was the Tevez who worked hard on his handicap.

Golf also appeals to the self-centred who relish the opportunity it provides to think only of themselves and their golf swing.

This aspect of Tevez's personality may have been attracted to the game in the first place and it was also what had given him the time off during a busy season.

By April, City needed one Tevez so badly, it was time to forget about the other.

Mancini had said it was "impossible" for Tevez to play for the club again but that was before things got so bad. By April, Mancini knew his job was in danger if the title opportunity went. This brought a pragmatism not present during the principled days in September.

The defeat at the Emirates meant City had gone three games without a win. Tevez returned to the first 11 the following Wednesday.

City won and they kept winning until the final day, playing with a fluidity and movement rarely seen in teams in the last stages of a title race.

They may have played with the freedom of nothing left to lose or they may have drawn inspiration from one man.

As April went on and Manchester United lost at Wigan and drew 4-4 with Everton at Old Trafford, Tevez seemed like one of the world's great men.

When City beat United on the last day of April, the sides were level on points. They finished the season level on points and City's goal difference made the difference.

In fact, one man made the difference but, like all key moments in history, fortune and the random actions of others played a key part.

They keep replaying Sergio Aguero's goal as if it was the most significant moment in City's title-winning season. A goal in the last 90 seconds of the season which wins the game and the title will rightly be viewed as extraordinary.

But Balotelli's two yellow cards against Arsenal were glorious moments in the history of Manchester City.

Sunday Indo Sport

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