Man City to lodge racist abuse complaint
Published 17/02/2012 | 09:41
THE racism epidemic which has poisoned English football this season on Thursday night spread to continental Europe.
Manchester City's executives lodged an official complaint to Uefa after claiming their striker, Mario Balotelli, was racially abused during the club’s victory here.
City’s distress was made known at half-time after they informed Uefa’s delegate, Panagiotis Chatzialexiou of Germany, that Balotelli was being subjected to monkey chants by a section of the home crowd.
The abuse was not audible in all areas of the Estadio do Dragao, but club officials were adamant their young striker was being racially abused.
When he was substituted in the 78th minute Balotelli was again targeted by Porto supporters. The player himself confirmed he heard the abuse, although his manager, Roberto Mancini, was not aware of the incidents.
“I didn’t hear this because I was concentrating on the game,” Mancini said. “But I think the players are strong. Mario did very well. He was calm and it is important he contributed.
“He knows these kind of things can happen every game. This is the reason I spoke to Mario before the game and said you should think only about football.”
The race taunts marred what was considered the most impressive European away performance of Mancini’s reign.
Porto were unbeaten at home in any competition for 55 games, but City fought back from a goal down to take a first leg lead back to the Etihad Stadium.
Balotelli, so often perceived as mentally vulnerable when intimidated, showed commendable restraint to assist in City’s 55th minute equaliser – an own goal by Alvaro Pereira – when the Italian striker’s pressure forced the defender to divert the ball into the net.
Sergio Agüero, who replaced Balotelli late in the game, then sealed victory after 82 minutes following a swift exchange of passes between Yaya Touré and Gareth Barry. On his return from the Africa Nations Cup, Touré was majestic.
It says everything about the warped logic of modern football that the most significant return to the City fold this week has gone barely noticed until last night.
While Tévez stews at Carrington, the world wondering if he will be able to resist the lure of his favourite airport terminal as it becomes clear Mancini couldn’t care less about him, Touré smoothly glided back into the squad.
Touré’s marauding presence instantly gave City a more commanding look. One typical rampage through the heart of midfield put Porto’s Danilo on a stretcher and out of the game as he hurt himself fouling the Ivory Coast man.
The timing of Touré’s return could not have been better.
Such was the quality on show this could easily have masqueraded as a Champions League game, while the calibre of the Portuguese side was all too apparent when Silvestre Varela gave them a 27th minute lead.
Hulk had time and space to pick out Varela six yards out, and he had a simple tap-in past Joe Hart.
With the exception of the Greek economy, nothing has been as unstable in Europe this season as English football and it seemed City’s own travelling woes were going to persist in Portugal.
They had won just one of their previous seven foreign away trips, and with the Premier League entering its key stage, it was feared the Europa League was an unwanted diversion.
Such thoughts were swiftly dismissed as Porto’s class made everyone aware how difficult this competition will be, and why there is value in winning it.
Mancini, though, needed all his big guns firing to retain interest in the tie and City were unfortunate to be behind at half time.
Porto goalkeeper Helton was called on three times in quick succession, first palming away Balotelli’s glancing header, then producing replica saves to deny Micah Richards and Samir Nasri.
The warnings were also clear. Gaël Clichy headed a Rolando effort off the line, and when the Europa League champions took the lead it ended an encouraging City spell.
A blistering start to the second half tipped the balance in City’s favour. Richards slammed a ferocious shot against the post, and Balotelli shrugged off the taunts by playing a key role in the 55th minute equaliser.
Touré’s diagonal ball was misjudged by Pereira as he tried to challenge the Italian striker, and it somewhat comically bounced off the defender’s head beyond the advancing Helton.
Balotelli did not celebrate. He rarely does, but it may have reflected his seething anger at the reaction towards him from the home supporters.
His replacement, Agüero, then converted the winning goal after a brilliant one-touch move involving Touré and Gareth Barry, the Argentine tapping in at the far post.