City bounce back but Balotelli’s heroics tainted


MANCHESTER CITY manager Roberto Mancini raged at referee Lee Probert for sending off Mario Balotelli after the two-goal striker’s afternoon was soured by a red card. Balotelli, a £24m summer signing from Inter Milan, scored his first Premier League goals for his new club to ease the pressure on Mancini following three straight defeats.

But the 20-year-old had to forget any thoughts of a hat-trick when he was booked twice in quick succession, the second for a foul on Youssouf Mulumbu, who later was also sent off.

“I absolutely do not agree with the referee about this sending-off,” said Mancini, who plans to appeal the dismissal. “A red card for what? He played a fantastic game, he scored two goals, but the sending-off was very strange. I want to know why it was a direct red card. For me this is not correct and the referee must explain.”

Victory ensured City held onto fourth place and meant they took full advantage of the unexpected defeats suffered by top-four rivals Chelsea and Arsenal.

It also boosted Mancini, who has faced predictions of his imminent demise and stories about dressing room unrest in a torrid past fortnight.

Balotelli (left), making only his second start for City due to injury, netted his first on 20 minutes when Spain midfielder David Silva slipped Carlos Tevez in to cross low for his strike partner.

The Italian’s second came just six minutes later when he eventually brought a high pass under control and used his physique well to turn a drill a low shot low into Scott Carson’s right-hand corner. Balotelli, who arrived with a reputation as a fiery character, was booked first for a challenge on Marek Cech and then for swinging his leg at Mulumbu.

West Brom boss Roberto di Matteo said: “I think the referee was in a good position on the [City] sending-off.”