Balotelli on the spot
Last-gasp penalty gives City victory over Spurs in five-goal thriller
Last Updated: 23/01/12 9:07pm
Mario Balotelli fired home from the penalty spot in the fifth minute of added time as Manchester City edged out Tottenham in a five-goal thriller at the Etihad Stadium.
Spurs looked set to become the first side to deny Roberto Mancini's league leaders victory on their own turf in the Premier League until Ledley King was penalised for pulling down Balotelli and the Italian substitute stepped up to beat Brad Friedel.
The previously unremarkable contest burst into life with an astonishing spell of four goals in 10 second-half minutes, beginning when David Silva's precision defence-splitting pass was lashed home first time beyond Friedel by Samir Nasri (56).
Moments later the home fans were in raptures when Nasri's corner from left was flicked on by Edin Dzeko at the near post and bundled into the net by Joleon Lescott as he fell over under pressure from Scott Parker.
But Spurs immediately responded as Younes Kaboul's long ball out of defence was badly dealt with by young centre-back Stefan Savic, allowing Jermain Defoe to burst clear, round Joe Hart and roll home.
And then Gareth Bale, who was linked with an staggering £150million switch to City in the Sunday papers, levelled in stunning fashion as he swept home Aaron Lennon's pass across the edge of the box with a curling first-time finish that gave Hart not a prayer.
Defoe came within inches of securing a last-gasp victory when Savic gave the ball away again, but the striker was unable to turn Bale's pass into the empty net at the far post with the goal gaping, before King's blunder handed all the headlines to Balotelli, who was earlier fortunate to avoid sanction for clashing with Scott Parker.
The victory piles the pressure on City's rivals, who are all playing catch-up, with Spurs now eight points adrift of top spot.
Bale threatened on a couple of occasions, and should have made more of the position he found himself in when he checked inside James Milner's sliding tackle.
But Tottenham did not force Hart into a meaningful save in the opening 45 minutes, Parker and Kaboul both firing well wide with long-range efforts.
It took City some time to get going, and even then they were only a sporadic threat. However, in Sergio Aguero they had the game's most obvious first goalscorer.
The club record £38million front-man has looked tired in recent games as he attempted to shoulder the goalscoring burden. Here though, he excelled.
Having had Dzeko nick the ball off his foot when he was lining up a shot at Wigan on Monday, the South American must have been dismayed when the same team-mate got in the way of his efforts to turn home Silva's cutback.
Aguero's best opportunity came not long afterwards. In attempting to pass their way out of a tight spot by the touchline, Spurs only ended up getting themselves into trouble as Micah Richards thundered into Parker to seize possession.
Richards strode on into the box, then squared for Aguero, whose shot was superbly turned away by Friedel.
Of the millions of pounds splashed out last summer - and with more set to follow in the last nine days of this transfer window - the signing of a 40-year-old American may turn out to be the most astute.
Silva also fired across the face of Friedel's goal - but it was in the second half that the action started in earnest.
In truth, though it ended with a spectacular equaliser from Bale, City boss Mancini would have been disappointed with the four-goal burst in the space of 10 minutes because it saw his side toss away a winning position.
City took the lead thanks to Silva's brilliant through-ball, which coincided perfectly with Nasri's dash from the left touchline that went completely unchecked even though it took him through the heart of the visitors' defence. The former Arsenal man has his critics but the shot which beat Friedel was blistering and gave the American no chance.
On their next attack, City doubled their advantage as Lescott first stood on Nasri's corner, then, from barely a yard, somehow sent the ball trundling over the line as he fell.
It should have been all over. That it wasn't was due to Savic's bizarre attempt to reach Hart with a 50-yard back header that succeeded only in letting in Defoe, who rounded Hart, then turned the ball into an empty net.
Bale's blockbuster came five minutes later, one of those goals a keeper can only shrug their shoulders at being beaten by, the Welshman's brilliant first-time curling effort from Lennon's square pass finding the roof of Hart's net.
The goal frenzy triggered the arrival of Balotelli, who had already been shown the yellow card when he tangled with Parker, the initial contact accidental, the second when his boot caught the head of his prone opponent far less easy to excuse.That he should remain on the pitch was a matter for Spurs to reflect on as the Italian coolly converted his penalty to delight the City fans.
|Manchester City||Team Statistics||Tottenham Hotspur|
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|4||Shots on Target||3|
|5||Shots off Target||6|
|48.2||1st Half Poss.||51.8|
|59.9||2nd Half Poss.||40.1|
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|11||West Ham United||34||37|
|16||West Bromwich Albion||33||33|
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