Tuesday 28 January 2020

Balotelli repays faith as City motor on

Man City 2 Bolton 0


Once again this season, the sub-plot did not really matter as Manchester City ploughed on with yet another routine victory.

Five points clear at the top of the table ahead of Manchester United's trip to Tottenham today, City never had to get out of second gear against Owen Coyle's side.

Bolton were organised and worked but, as 22/1 odds on an away win before the game suggested, they were always going to be second best, although only a Gretar Steinsson own-goal separated the teams until the final 20 minutes.

Mario Balotelli, who faces a two-week fine for a trip to a Liverpool strip club in the early hours of Friday, added a second from close-range 46 minutes after the opener but City's 18th straight Premier League home win was far from a memorable one.

Last week Balotelli celebrated his goal in the 3-0 win over Blackburn by revealing a T-shirt that declared his love for his girlfriend but after doubling City's lead there was no 'I only went because my mates made me,' follow-up.

City manager Roberto Mancini is used to fending off questions about Balotelli (or Carlos Tevez or Robinho or Emmanuel Adebayor or Craig Bellamy) but there is less stress in rolling the eyes at the latest misdemeanour when your team has just moved another step closer to a first title in 44 years.

Mancini is not even sure whether he will see United's game this afternoon, saying: "I will probably watch it but we know the result already. I think they will win because United are a good team. If we want to win this championship we need to win the next 10 games."

Bolton employed American defender Tim Ream as a shield to protect their back four, but City's width and willingness meant they always looked capable of playing through the visitors.

With around a minute gone, David Wheater had to deny Samir Nasri with a flying block after a swaggering move involving Adam Johnson and Pablo Zabaleta had opened Bolton up.

City went closer a minute later when the outstanding Yaya Toure clipped through for Balotelli, whose shot bounced off the post before Adam Bogdan denied a following-up Nasri.

Balotelli passed up a string of other opportunities but the breakthrough came from an unlikely source midway through the first half. Gael Clichy, who has never scored for City, was allowed the time to drift forward and hit a shot from 30 yards that glanced off the head of Steinsson and beyond the wrong-footed Bogdan.

On-loan Arsenal winger Ryo Miyaichi was Bolton's most potent threat and went close to evening the game up when he robbed Kolo Toure and had a stinging shot held by Joe Hart. But City almost added a second with a trademark counter-attacking thrust just before the interval when Yaya Toure surged forward and squared for Vincent Kompany, who turned and passed in the same movement, before Balotelli saw his shot blocked by Bogdan.

The Hungarian goalkeeper was alert to block Balotelli at the start of the second period, but as the hosts went through the motions they almost added a second own goal when Darren Pratley's attempt to tackle Edin Dzeko 20 yards from goal looped the ball over Bogdan but away off the bar.

The lead was doubled when Balotelli finally found the net from close range after Johnson's persistent run into the box.

"Manchester City are a team that for over a year have won every single home league game and we came here and more than matched them for large periods," Bolton manager Owen Coyle said.

"When you're going well, luck comes your way and that was what happened with Manchester City's first goal."


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