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Sunday, 22 January 2012

Balotelli gives Manchester City 3-2 win over Spurs

Manchester: Mario Balotelli settled Manchester City's thrilling five-goal encounter with title rivals Tottenham on Sunday and provided the moment of controversy by appearing to stamp on an opponent.

Having thrown away a two-goal advantage, Premier League leaders City were being held 2-2 deep in stoppage time when Balotelli was tripped by Ledley King in the penalty area.

Referee Howard Webb pointed to the spot and Balotelli clinched the 3-2 triumph, an 11th straight home win in the league that keeps City three points ahead of Manchester United.

"I was calm, like every time I take a penalty," Balotelli said.

But the volatile Italy striker isn't always so calm. Renowned for various misdemeanors on and off the pitch, Balotelli raised his jersey during a 6-1 rout of United in October to reveal a T-shirt reading: "Why always me?"

And again on Sunday he was the center of attention - despite only being a 65th-minute substitute.

City took the lead in the 56th minute when Samir Nasri crashed the ball into the net after latching onto David Silva's delightful throughball. Joleon Lescott then doubled the advantage just minutes later, scrambling in from a corner.

Spurs responded immediately as Jermain Defoe capitalised on an error from Stefan Savic to beat Joe Hart to the ball and pass home into an empty net. Moments later, Gareth Bale looked to have completed the comeback for the visitors with a fantastic strike from outside the area as his left-footed curler sailed into the top corner.

However, Balotelli made no mistake from the spot, sliding into the bottom corner to give City the three points.

Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp was furious that Balotelli escaped unpunished 10 minutes before his match-winner, accusing him of deliberately kicking Scott Parker.

Having just been booked for a sliding challenge on Benoit Assou-Ekotto, even a second yellow card would have led to Balotelli's dismissal.

While City assistant manager David Platt had no comment on the incident because he had not seen it, Redknapp was adamant that it should have seen Balotelli sent off.

"He kicked Scott Parker in the head," Redknapp said "He does it a lot, he backheeled him in the face and cut his head. No one can make excuses that he didn't do it, anyone can see he did do it."

Parker ended up on the ground after tangling with teammate Luka Modric while trying to block a strike from Balotelli. Slow motion replays showed Balotelli first catching Parker's hands with his left boot and then following through with the studs of his right boot, which landed on the midfielder's head.

"What reason did he have to backheel Scott in the head when he's lying on the floor," Redknapp said.

Third-placed Tottenham ended the match eight points behind City and five adrift of defending champions United, despite staging a comeback after conceding two quick-fire goals.

"We should have controlled the game better than we did," City midfielder James Milner said.

David Silva, who had been pulling the strings of City's midfield, provided the opening that allowed City to break the deadlock in the 56th minute following a tight first-half between sides chasing their first English title since the 1960s.

Samir Nasri evaded Tottenham defenders Kyle Walker and Younes Kaboul to latch onto Silva's throughball and shoot past Brad Friedel to net for the first time since December 3.

Nasri played a part in City's second, three minutes later, sending in the cross that Edin Dzeko flicked toward the far post. While Parker initially blocked the ball, he failed to keep hold and clear, allowing Lescott to scramble it over the line.

City were cruising just like in their 5-1 rout of Tottenham in August, only for the visitors to be gifted a route back into the game inside a minute. Younes Kaboul launched the ball forward and Stefan Savic's attempt to make a headed clearance only directed it back into the path of the onrushing Defoe. The England striker met the ball and rounded keeper Joe Hart on the edge of the penalty area before coolly slotting home.

The comeback was on, with the equalizer coming five minutes later.

Aaron Lennon broke free on the left flank before squaring to Bale, who lifted the ball beyond the reach of Hart into the top corner.

"We were well on top, scored the two goals and probably should have controlled the game better than we did," Milner said. "We took our foot off the gas, gave them one sloppy goal," he added. "They're a good team, if you give them a sniff it gives them the momentum to go on."

And Tottenham could have snatched a stoppage-time winner themselves had Defoe connected with Bale's cross after being picked out at the far post.

But then came a rare blip for King in the Tottenham defence, having not been on a losing side since August 2010, and Balotelli's winner.

"It looked like a penalty," Redknapp said. "But the boy who scored the penalty shouldn't have been on the pitch."

Redknapp's attention now shifts to Southwark Crown Court, where his trial on two counts of tax evasion starts on Monday. The charges emanate from his time in charge of Portsmouth, which he left in 2008 to join Tottenham.


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