Manchester City 3 Wolverhampton 1
Sheep in Wolves Clothing
Saturday 29th October 2011 : GYKO at the
After the joy of six comes the
glee of three. Unlike the destruction of Manchester United, this was
not a result that will be transferred straight to DVD, although it
was a rather harder earned victory. By its end, the lead over
Manchester United had been extended on goal difference while Chelsea
lay nine points adrift.
Nevertheless, Vincent Kompany's hauling down of Kevin Doyle meant
that Roberto Mancini will be without his captain for the next game.
Given that it was their first home game since the great enemy had
been shattered in their own lair, the gloating was kept to a
minimum. The half-dozen goals at Old Trafford were played on the big
screens before kick-off but the only prominent banner mentioning six
was the longstanding one declaring that "On the sixth day God
created Manchester City", which, if true, is evidence of a divine
sense of humour.
Having scored five in the Carling Cup at Molineux on Wednesday,
there was a natural expectation this would be another command
performance, another victory parade. However, for a side that had
come to Manchester portrayed as sheep in Wolves' clothing, they had
fought unexpectedly hard.
At half-time, Mick McCarthy said he could taste the frustration in
the throats of the home supporters. No side since Birmingham last
November has come to Eastlands in the Premier League and kept a
clean sheet. Wolves were displaying the subtlety and negativity of a
nightclub bouncer with a baseball bat in his fist.
"I thought rather a lot was made of that match against Manchester
United, because they played for 44 minutes with 10 men and that is
very hard," said the Wolves manager. "But at half-time, I heard the
crowd and I thought there was a lot of anxiety and frustration. For
a side coming here to generate that kind of atmosphere is a good
If McCarthy nursed hopes of a successful fighting retreat, they were
gone six minutes after the interval. That was probably predictable,
although that it would be through a rank goalkeeping error was not.
Wayne Hennessy had made his first save, tipping a drive from Samir
Nasri into the crowd, when the scoreboard registered one minute and
14 seconds and had denied Edin Dzeko in the kind of one-on-one the
Bosnian had exploited in the surreal closing moments at Old
Trafford. An outstretched boot, a well-timed tackle and the kind of
unsophisticated shoulder charge McCarthy would have recognised from
his own days at City had kept Wolves afloat and that kind of
attitude just might have lasted.
Under those circumstances, a routine clearance ought to have
presented few problems but Hennessy dawdled and when he did try to
punt the ball forward, it collided with Sergio Agüero's legs and
rebounded to Dzeko who chipped into an empty net. In all
competitions there is nobody with more goals and none would be quite
"Wayne was fabulous; he has been all season," said McCarthy. "There
are no recriminations but what annoys me is that we had been doing
fine and we gave the opposition the lead. Then there is another
mistake and we are 2-0 down."
This time Hennessy managed to block David Silva's shot after Agüero
had pulled the ball back but the rebound fell to Aleksandar Kolarov,
who bundled his way between David Edwards and Richard Stearman the
two covering defenders, and forced the rebound home.
That ought to have been that but Wolves continued to niggle away;
sometimes with the kind of tactics that brought to mind Arsène
Wenger's comments that there are some teams that would not look out
of place on a rugby field. Sometimes they genuinely hurt City and
when Adlène Guedioura delivered a shot from outside the box, Joe
Hart could only parry it towards Doyle. Given what happened, Kompany
should probably have let him score instead of dragging him down.
What followed was inevitable and likely – the red card and a penalty
converted by Stephen Hunt.
Just as he had last Saturday, McCarthy made a double substitution
but while Swansea had crumbled at Molineux, City are made of rather
more expensive, vastly more experienced material.
Mario Balotelli, who had been rewarded for his efforts at Old
Trafford with a place on the bench here, broke away and fed Adam
Johnson, whose shot displayed the kind of qualities entirely lacking
in McCarthy's side. On Wednesday night in the Black Country, Johnson
had reportedly refused to board the City bus because he felt
Mancini's attitude towards him was so unremittingly harsh. Now he
seemed keener to be with his team-mates.
Man City Hart, Richards, Kompany, Lescott, Kolarov, Silva,
Toure Yaya, Barry, Nasri (Balotelli 70), Aguero (Savic 76), Dzeko
Subs Not Used: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Milner, De Jong.
Sent Off: Kompany (74).
Booked: Barry, Dzeko.
Goals: Dzeko 52, Kolarov 67, Johnson 90.
Wolverhampton Hennessey, Stearman, Johnson, Berra, Ward, Hunt
(Jarvis 85), O'Hara, Guedioura (Ebanks-Blake 85), Henry, Edwards (Hammill
Subs Not Used: De Vries, Elokobi, Craddock, Vokes.
Goals: Hunt 75 pen.
Att: 47, 142
Ref: Stuart Attwell (Warwickshire).
Wolverhampton 2 Manchester City 5
Taming the Wolves
Wednesday 26th October 2011 : Stuart Grimshaw
for GYKO at Molineux
are fast turning into English football's great entertainers. It is a
title that would have been impossible to imagine attributing to
Roberto Mancini's side last season but how else can we think of a
team that has now scored 45 goals in 15 matches this term and
registered 21 in their last 450 minutes of football. They are
staggering statistics by anyone's standards and help to explain why
Carlos Tevez's brooding presence in the background is of so little
The bad news for a weakened Wolverhampton Wanderers side swept
aside by City's reserves is that their first team must confront the
real thing at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday. It is a frightening
prospect at the moment. Although Nenad Milijas put Wolves ahead
here, City reacted as if affronted, scoring three goals in four
minutes before the interval to take the game away from Mick
McCarthy's side with the same ruthlessness that characterised their
performance at Old Trafford.
Mancini left out the entire starting XI from Sunday but it is
measure of the strength in depth in his squad that the absence of
Mario Balotelli and Sergio Agüero barely resonated on a night when
Edin Dzeko scored twice to take his tally for the season to 11. Yet
it was Adam Johnson who did most to catch the eye in a £100m reserve
team, the England international scoring City's equaliser and having
a hand in the two other goals before the interval.
It was an impressive response from Johnson considering that he did
not even make the substitutes' bench against Manchester United,
although Mancini continues to demand more from the winger. "I think
sometimes he thinks: 'OK, this game I scored one goal, I did one
assist and that's enough,'" City's manager said. "He needs to think
in a different way: 'OK, I scored one goal, I did one assist, I
shall try to score another goal and another assist and after I run
back to defend.' Because he can do this if he wants.
"My opinion is that he has everything to become one of the top
wingers. I think you can improve when you are 30 or 31 years old.
Adam is young, this is his third season in the Premier League, he
has everything and it disappoints me when Adam plays every game and
doesn't put everything on the pitch. Tonight he played well but, for
example, on the second goal that Wolves scored, he didn't follow his
Johnson did, however, score a splendid goal, curling the ball home
from the edge of the penalty area, after Milijas had given Wolves a
deserved lead with a rising left-footed shot from Sam Vokes's
centre. Wolves, who never surrendered despite the avalanche of goals
conceded either side of half-time, had actually started much more
brightly than City and should have had a penalty moments before
their breakthrough, when Aleksandar Kolarov clearly handled
Yet in the blink of an eye the game was effectively over as City
opened Wolves up in quick succession prior to half-time. Two minutes
after Johnson equalised, the former Middlesbrough player threaded a
superb pass that invited Samir Nasri to run inside Matt Doherty and
arrow a low drive beyond Dorus De Vries. Wolves were still reeling
from that blow when the visitors added a third barely 60 seconds
later, Dzeko prodding the ball over the line after Luca Scapuzzi, a
20-year-old Italian, was denied by the Wolves keeper.
Stephen Hunt should have got a goal back at the start of the second
half but City were so relentless going forward that it is difficult
to imagine that they would have been kept at bay for long had the
Irishman reduced the deficit. Indeed, within two minutes of Hunt's
miss, City added a fourth when Scapuzzi's shot from two yards went
in off De Vries after the keeper was unable to hold Nasri's shot.
Dzeko's second and City's fifth came at the end of a flowing move,
before Jamie O'Hara grabbed a merited second for Wolves.
"I was pleased with our performance – that sounds crazy, doesn't it,
when you've got beat five?" said Mick McCarthy, the Wolves manager,
who had made nine changes from the side that drew with Swansea on
Saturday. "We started well and deserved the lead and the fact that
we couldn't hang on to it was nothing to do with us defending badly,
so that made a pleasant change. It was just a great finish when it
came out to Adam Johnson. City won't be made to work harder than
they were tonight, that's for sure."
Mancini admitted that City are benefiting from playing "maybe a
different style", perhaps alluding to his decision to take the
handbrake off the team this season, although some things never
change. There were unconfirmed reports afterwards that Balotelli,
who was an unused substitute, had reacted unhappily when one of the
City backroom staff asked him to do some running after the game.
"Mario? No, no, no," said Mancini, denying there had been an
Wolverhampton De Vries, Doherty, Craddock, Elokobi, Ward,
Edwards (Henry 67), Guedioura, Milijas (Hammill 65), Hunt, Vokes,
Doyle (O'Hara 65).
Subs Not Used: Hennessey, Ebanks-Blake, Johnson, Berra.
Booked: Craddock, Hunt.
Goals: Milijas 18, O'Hara 65.
Man City Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Savic, Toure, Kolarov, De
Jong, Razak (Milner 85), Scapuzzi (Rekik 73), Nasri (Suarez 67),
Subs Not Used: Taylor, Bridge, Onuoha, Balotelli.
Goals: Johnson 37, Nasri 39, Dzeko 40, De Vries 50 og, Dzeko 64.
Ref: Neil Swarbrick (Lancashire).
Manchester United 1 Manchester City 6 (six)
Blue Murder at OT
Sunday 23rd October 2011 : Karl Philips for
GYKO at the Theatre of broken Dreams
"Why Always Me?" read the lament on Mario Balotelli's T-shirt. "Why
Always Them?" Manchester City fans have complained about United for
Not any more. The second-best side in Europe after their Champions
League final defeat to Barcelona, United now face a struggle to be
seen as the No1 team in their own metropolis after their noisy
neighbours made a grab for power with this stunning 6-1 victory.
"There's a lot of embarrassment in the dressing room and rightly
so," Sir Alex Ferguson said after City moved five points clear of
them in the Premier League, with 33 goals in nine games. With a
little help from an Abu Dhabi multibillionaire, the downtrodden have
shaken off their chains. City overran United through the brilliance
of David Silva and the icy finishing of Balotelli and Edin Dzeko.
First Balotelli ignited his own house by launching fireworks through
his bathroom window, then he threw a match on the old order,
vindicating Roberto Mancini's decision to start him with City's
first two goals. United's most optimistic followers will dismiss
this as a freakish result caused partly by the dismissal of Jonny
Evans on 46 minutes for a last-man foul on Balotelli. But it went
much deeper. City were regal: skilful and strong in equal parts as
they ran in three late goals inside four minutes to turn a win into
Not since 1968, arguably, has there been so much individual talent
on show in a Manchester derby. The additions of Silva, Sergio Agüero
and Samir Nasri to a powerful but sometimes mechanical City side
have transformed England's highest league and jeopardised United's
dominance. Long gone are the days when City's disciples took refuge
in fatalism and humour. Now they watch Silva bamboozle the best
opponents, salute rigorous defending and applaud Balotelli as he
lifts his jersey to reveal a comedy T-shirt.
Why always him? The red cards, frivolous back heels, motoring
incidents, dart throwing and pyrotechnic mishaps may have something
to do with it. A persecution complex was no hindrance to him,
though, in the home of England's champions. Two minutes before he
scored, Balotelli had answered back to Mancini, who was unhappy with
his movement. His next act was to capitalise on some typically slick
City interplay as he slid the first of City's half-dozen past David
de Gea, the goalkeeper in United's worst Premier League defeat.
Never in his long reign has Ferguson conceded that "3-1 or 4-1"
would have been a mercy. He described himself as "shattered" and
said: "I can't believe it. It was incredibly disappointing. The
sending off was the killer blow. After that they just kept on
attacking. We showed a bit of inexperience at the back. At 3-1 or
4-1 we should have settled for that. Our two-full backs were playing
as wingers and left us two on three at the back. That was suicidal."
This defeat, Ferguson said, would "leave an impact on the players",
who have taken a switchback ride since winning the club's 19th
English title in May. Deprived of the ball for most of Barcelona's
dazzling Champions League win, they added Ashley Young, Phil Jones
and De Gea in the summer, started brightly, whacked Arsenal 8-2 at
the end of August and then walked into this ambush: the first
six-goal concession at home in the top flight since 1930.
For Ferguson's squad to recover they will need to somehow frame this
setback as a freakish product of their own recklessness in chasing a
lost game against first-rate counter attackers. But the match also
highlighted United's weaknesses, especially an absence of artistry
and ingenuity in midfield, where Anderson plodded and Nani, often a
match-winner, was anonymous.
At the back United were ripped apart, especially on their left-hand
side, where James Milner, Micah Richards and especially Silva caused
havoc as United's team shape fell apart. "Sheikh Mansour, m'lord,"
City fans chanted, like a rugby crowd. And: "The city is ours,"
followed by a fruity exhortation to United's followers to "go back
to London". These old taunts assumed a fresh sharpness coming from a
wedge of fans who used to think of trips to Old Trafford as a
survival exercise. United will be more dynamic in midfield when Tom
Cleverley returns and less limp when Ferguson has had his say at the
inquest. But they will not want a second helping of the queasiness
they felt when Barcelona taught them a lesson at Wembley. Playing
the fall guys to the best team of their age is pretty much
unavoidable in present circumstances. This is different.
This was United being usurped on their own manor. How, they will
ask, did City get so good?
United's board will brace itself for a regurgitation of ominous
statistics, principally the one showing the £473m the Glazer family
have drained in bank interest, fees and charges. The juxtaposition
of two ownership models now favours City. In one, debt is loaded on
the club to pay. In the other, money pours in as gift, as
This season has brought a vital change in the outside view of City,
who occupy the commanding heights despite having to deal with Carlos
Tevez's apparent wildcat strike in Munich. The neutral can watch
Silva, Nasri and Agüero for sheer entertainment value. This was the
trick Sheikh Mansour needed to pull off: to draw converts to an idea
beyond and above mere power and money.
With their mohicans (Balotelli, Micah Richards), physical might
(Yaya Touré, Vincent Kompany), industry and creativity, City have
cuffed away the charge that they had yet to face anyone serious in
this Premier League campaign. They have established a precedent
against top-four opposition they will need to maintain when the
final third of the season tests their togetherness and cunning.
United, on the other hand, have faced down threats over the last 15
years from Arsène Wenger's Arsenal, Roman Abramovich's Chelsea and a
resurgent Liverpool. This one is so close they can smell it, across
town. It is inescapable on the streets and in the daily life of
Manchester. Stand well back, and enjoy.
Man Utd De Gea, Smalling, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra, Nani
(Hernandez 65), Fletcher, Anderson (Jones 66), Young, Rooney,
Subs Not Used: Lindegaard, Berbatov, Park, Fabio Da Silva, Valencia.
Sent Off: Evans (47).
Booked: Anderson, Evra, Smalling, Welbeck.
Goals: Fletcher 81.
Man City Hart, Richards, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy, Toure
Yaya, Barry, Milner (Kolarov 89), Silva, Balotelli (Dzeko 70),
Aguero (Nasri 75).
Subs Not Used: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Toure, De Jong.
Booked: Balotelli, Kompany, Richards.
Goals: Balotelli 22, 60, Aguero 69, Silva 90, Dzeko 90, 90.
Att: 75, 487
Ref: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).
Manchester City 2 Villarreal 1 First
European CL Win for City
Tuesday 18th October 2011 : GYKO at the Etihad
Sergio Aguero finally ignited Manchester City's stuttering
Champions League campaign with a dramatic late winner against
Villarreal. The Argentinian playmaker tapped home in the third
minute of injury time just as the Spanish side looked to have
frustrated Roberto Mancini's men at the Etihad Stadium.
Villarreal had stunned City by taking a fourth-minute lead through
Cani but a Carlos Marchena own goal hauled City back into contention
just before the break. For much of the second half City were
laboured but fit-again Aguero, who came off the bench on the hour,
glossed over a poor 90 minutes by snatching his side's first win in
City recovered from the shock of conceding early to dominate
first-half possession but, despite the constant probing of David
Silva, lacked their usual Premier League swagger. The manner of
their equaliser was fortunate and the goal failed to provide the
spark they needed until Aguero saved the day. It had seemed the
return of Silva, Samir Nasri and Edin Dzeko, all rested at the
weekend, had failed to find the winning formula in Europe. And after
the well-documented problems with substitutions in the loss to
Bayern Munich last month, manager Mancini also appeared to upset
another player by taking Adam Johnson off late in the first half.
City had gone into the game as clear favourites but it was La Liga's
13th-placed side who made the perfect start. The game had barely
begun when when Silva played Nigel de Jong into trouble outside his
own area and Jonathan de Guzman nipped in to steal possession.
Former Manchester United striker Giuseppe Rossi, a constant menace,
lashed a shot at goal that Joe Hart could only parry and Cani
reacted quickly to poke home.
Villarreal were lifted by that first goal in this season's group
stages and Joleon Lescott needed to break up another promising
attack. After that sloppy start, City finally began to find some
life after Aleksandar Kolarov, scorer of the equaliser against
Napoli earlier in the competition, fired wide from distance. Kolarov
then found space on the left to clip in a cross for Nasri on the
edge of the box but the Frenchman volleyed narrowly over.
Kolarov went for goal direct from a free-kick but goalkeeper Diego
Lopez palmed his curling effort away. With Silva influential, City
looked to maintain the pressure but, after a good spell, found
Villarreal difficult to penetrate. Nasri did find a way through
after exchanging passes with Silva but fired a low cross straight
through the area. Yaya Toure pounced on a mistake to surge forward
but shot way off target and a Kolarov cross proved too strong for
Mancini surprisingly made a change five minutes before the break by
sending on Gareth Barry for Johnson, who was not injured and shook
his head as he left the field. Although the change itself made
little difference to City's overall play, Barry was involved in the
build-up as the hosts pulled level three minutes later. Kolarov made
another incisive run and his low cross took a slight deflection
before a sliding Marchena diverted it into his own goal attempting
to clear. City almost snatched the lead before the break when Silva
played in Dzeko but Lopez reacted quickly to save.
City were almost caught napping at the restart as Rossi robbed
Vincent Kompany and blasted a shot wide after a dangerous run. The
hosts responded as Silva spread the ball wide for Zabaleta and his
cross dropped nicely for an onside Dzeko but the Bosnian failed to
make clean contact and Lopez saved.
City thought they had claimed the lead after 54 minutes when Kolarov
smashed in a shot off the underside of the bar but the flag was
raised for offside. Villarreal gave City another scare just before
the hour when former West Brom midfielder Borja Valero found space
to shoot but missed the target. Cristian Zapata also stretched City
on the counter-attack but did not trouble Hart.
With City looking leaden-footed, Mancini made a second substitution
with Aguero replacing De Jong. Rossi, who had caused City a
number of problems with his pace, threatened again but was booked on
the edge of the area for diving after minimal contact with Kompany.
Kolarov got another chance from a free-kick but, from a similar
position to where he scored against Napoli, this time shot the wrong
side of the post.
City fans had been handed out sheets of paper to form a mosaic prior
to kick-off but their frustration was evident when Valero was pelted
with a paper ball taking a corner late on.
Dzeko had a chance in the closing minutes but his frustrating
evening only continued as he headed well wide. Zabaleta had an even
better opportunity but headed tamely at Lopez. Just as time looked
to be up, Zabaleta crossed and Aguero tapped in to spark jubilant
scenes. Alls well that ends well and this couldn't have ended
better, roll on the return
Man City Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Kolarov, De Jong
(Aguero 62), Toure Yaya, Johnson (Barry 40), Silva, Nasri (Milner
Subs Not Used: Pantilimon, Richards, Savic, Clichy.
Goals: Marchena 43 og, Aguero 90.
Villarreal Diego Lopez, Zapata, Marchena, Rodriguez, Catala,
Valero, Bruno, Perez (Wakaso 80), De Guzman (Gullon 88), Cani (Mario
Subs Not Used: Cesar, Musacchio, Bordas, Joselu.
Booked: Catala, Rossi, Mario.
Goals: Cani 4.
Att: 42, 236
Ref: Pavel Kralovec (Czech Republic).
Manchester City 4 Aston Villa 1 City
Saturday 15th October : GYKO at the Etihad
Seen through the cold glare of Sir Alex Ferguson's eyes, Manchester
United's games against Liverpool may be bigger occasions but the
ones against City will go further to deciding the destination of the
It is 12 months since anyone last took a point at Old Trafford, but
Manchester City will go there next Sunday with a little clear sky
blue water between themselves and their neighbours. Since Carlos
Tevez's frustrations exploded in Munich, Manchester City have played
twice and scored eight times.
No side is ever entirely united, there are fault lines in every
dressing room. But Roberto Mancini's players have demonstrated that
they are not men put off their stride by the exiling of last
season's captain and leading scorer.
Aston Villa have a dreadful record in the blue half of Manchester.
This was their first league defeat of the season but their 11th in
their past dozen games at Eastlands or Maine Road and they could
scarcely have been swept away by a more emphatic scoreline. When
Shay Given, who like Richard Dunne and Stephen Ireland endured a
wretched return to his former club, collided with Mario Balotelli
and Micah Richards, he lifted his shirt to reveal the Italian's
studs marks reddening on his torso. However, Villa's wounds were
more than skin deep.
"It does not matter if you are playing Manchester City or an amateur
team, if you defend like this, you will lose games," Alex McLeish,
the Villa manager, said. "People will see the scoreline and everyone
will think City cut Aston Villa to ribbons. We weren't but what they
will see is some horrendous defending."
Now that Wayne Rooney is suspended for the group stages of the
European Championship – a phase England have only got through twice
in the modern history of the competition – the limelight will shine
ever more fiercely on Darren Bent and Gabriel Agbonlahor.
The first had no opportunities to speak of. Agbonlahor had a
one-on-one that was well saved by Joe Hart while Villa's goal came
from the boot of Stephen Warnock. When the left-back drove his shot
in from the underside of Hart's crossbar, his team were three down
and City were, temporarily, without a right-back through Richards's
If hope of a recovery flickered in McLeish's brain, it was
extinguished a few minutes later when Adam Johnson and Gareth Barry
fed James Milner who curled a beautiful side-footed shot beyond
Given. It says something that the Villa keeper barely moved for two
of City's goals.
It says something for the standards Mancini demands that Johnson's
performance, which saw him play a part in each of the goals, was
rated "so-so in the first half" by his manager.
The first was an astonishing effort; a corner from Johnson, headed
on by Vincent Kompany. It fell between Richards, who seemed not to
know what to do with it, and Balotelli who did, finishing
emphatically with a bicycle kick.
"Mario was four or five times on the bench in the last month,"
Mancini said, "but this time he understood why and now has scored
four goals in a row and worked for the team. But we know Mario can
change at any moment."
Then it was Johnson's turn to score. Warnock missed his clearance
from a long upfield punt by Yaya Touré, the ball fell to Johnson who
turned and stabbed it past a stranded goalkeeper.
The third was even simpler and, to McLeish, even more wastefully
stupid; a near-post header from an entirely unmarked Kompany that
sent Johnson's corner straight into the net. It ensured Manchester
City's supporters would go to Old Trafford top of the league,
something they would not have expected since the dazzling days of
Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison.
Man City Hart, Richards (Toure 66), Lescott, Kompany, Clichy,
De Jong, Barry, Milner, Johnson (Hargreaves 77), Toure Yaya (Silva
Subs Not Used: Pantilimon, Dzeko, Kolarov, Nasri.
Goals: Balotelli 28, Johnson 47, Kompany 52, Milner 71.
Aston Villa Given, Hutton, Dunne, Clark, Warnock, Delph (Albrighton
76), Petrov, Ireland (N'Zogbia 55), Heskey (Bannan 63), Agbonlahor,
Subs Not Used: Guzan, Cuellar, Weimann, Herd.
Goals: Warnock 65.
Att: 47, 019
Ref: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire).
Blackburn Rovers 0 Manchester City 4 All
Rover for Blackburn
Saturday 1st October : GYKO at Ewood Park
Mario Balotelli grabbed his chance to wipe out the memory of
Manchester City's bad night against Bayern Munich as Roberto
Mancini's men eased to a 4-0 victory at ailing Blackburn.
Balotelli drilled home City's second just before the hour and ran
the home defence ragged in what was City's perfect riposte to the
midweek controversy involving Carlos Tevez.
Adam Johnson's wonder-goal and late strikes from Samir Nasri and
Stefan Savic wrapped up City's second half master-class leading
furious Rovers fans to chant for the dismissal of boss Steve Kean.
Despite accepting Edin Dzeko's apology for his outburst at being
substituted in midweek, Mancini had dropped the Bosnian to the bench
and opted to give Balotelli his chance.
It was an inspired decision with Balotelli looking by far the
liveliest of City's attacking options, particularly when Sergio
Aguero limped off injured on the half-hour.
Rovers had started solidly enough but it quickly became apparent
they would have to guard against City's speed and sharpness, with
Chris Samba cutting out a dangerous Vincent Kompany cross.
The visitors had their first real chance in the 10th minute when
David Silva cut into the box from the left and his cross was parried
by Paul Robinson into the path of Balotelli, who blazed over.
Rovers responded two minutes later with a swinging cross from Morten
Gamst Pedersen on the left, which was aimed for the head of Samba
before being cut out by Joleon Lescott.
Junior Hoilett's pace troubled the City rearguard in the 16th minute
as he scampered over the half-way line and sent Yakubu on the left,
but he was denied by a fine challenge by Milner.
For all their neat possession, Mancini's men were struggling to
unduly threaten the Rovers defence, with Silva guilty of spooning a
25th minute half-chance high over the bar.
City's striking options, already diminished by the suspension of
Tevez, were further hit when Aguero limped off with an apparent
Nasri came on to replace Aguero, and his first act was to screw a
low shot towards the Rovers goal which was deflected out for a
corner by David Goodwillie.
City's inability to find the cutting final ball surfaced again in
the 35th minute when a fine move involving Milner and Nasri petered
out when Samba beat Balotelli to a clearance in the box.
Balotelli stepped up his game towards the end of the first half,
flashing a curling 37th minute effort wide then zipping in front of
Samba to shoot into the side-netting.
City looked sharper at the start of the second half, with Silva
shooting across the face of goal moments after the restart, then
Balotelli driving a right-foot shot against the post.
City finally broke the deadlock in the 56th minute when Johnson
picked up a half-cleared Kolarov corner on the edge of the box and
swung a superb left-foot shot into the top corner.
And City extended their lead three minutes later when Balotelli got
the goal his performance deserved, stealing in front of Steven
Nzonzi to prod home a cross from the left by Nasri.
Nasri swept home City's third in the 74th minute after good work
from Silva in the box, sparking a furious reaction from sections of
the home fans who chanted for Kean's dismissal.
Substitute Mauro Formica forced the first real save out of Joe Hart
with 15 minutes left on the clock then Yakubu blazed high over the
bar but it was all in vain.
City scored their fourth three minutes from time (pictured
above) when Nasri sent in a corner from the left and
substitute Stefan Savic bundled the ball home through a crowded box.
Blackburn Robinson, Lowe, Samba, Dann, Givet, Petrovic,
Nzonzi, Pedersen, Goodwillie (Formica 61), Yakubu, Hoilett.
Subs Not Used: Bunn, Slew, Rochina, Vukcevic, Roberts, Hanley.
Man City Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Kolarov, Milner,
Toure Yaya, Silva, Johnson (Savic 79), Aguero (Nasri 27), Balotelli
Subs Not Used: Pantilimon, Barry, Clichy, De Jong.
Goals: Johnson 56, Balotelli 59, Nasri 73, Savic 87.
Att: 24, 760
Ref: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire).