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Back on track (West Brom 0, City 2)

08 November 2010

Mario Balotelli spins and fires in his second goal of the day at The Hawthorns.

I went into this one expecting the worst. The Hawthorns has been a house of horrors for City in recent years, including the Carling Cup shocker earlier this season. I was encouraged by the returns of Carlos Tévez and Nigel de Jong and the Premier League debut of Mario Balotelli, but the way things had been going for City lately and with West Brom looking tough, there was still plenty of cause for nervousness.

Initially it seemed my fears were entirely founded when West Brom started brightly and nearly got an early goal when the ball deflected off Kolo Touré and rolled just wide of Joe Hart’s post. But after a first few shaky minutes, City eventually showed up, and I was incredibly relieved when the visitors struck first, with Balotelli turning in a perfect Tévez cross.

If the Italian was fortunate that his poorly struck redirected found the goal, there was nothing lucky about his second. His first touch to an aerial ball was sublime, and his quick turning shot caught Scott Carson unprepared, as he whirled and shot inside the far post to double City’s advantage.

Jérôme Boateng could’ve made it 3-0 after David Silva expertly played him through, but the young defender’s first touch was poor and allowed Carson to come out and collect. After Simon Cox hit the post with a long-range strike, Balotelli picked up a booking in the 60th minute and seemed to be losing his composure. I remember commenting that Roberto Mancini needed to sub him off before he got himself sent off.

Three minutes later Balotelli saw straight red after getting tangled with Youssuf Mulumbu and appearing to kick him over. Howver, replays showed a straight red was way harsh, as Balotelli leg didn’t appear to ever make contact with the opponent. Still, it was probably worthy of a second yellow, so it was hard to take too much issue with his sending off. A three-match ban for violent conduct, however, is another story.

With City on 10 men, I was dreading the final half-hour that undoubtedly would consist of the visitors bunkering to try to weather an onslaught. There was a heart-in-through moment when City nearly put the ball in their own net while defending a corner, but Silva made a goalline clearance off the crossbar. I was able to breathe easier when West Brom also were reduced to 10 men on a nasty sliding challenge from behind on Tévez by  Mulumbu. It should’ve been a straight red card, but a second yellow did the trick.

From that point on, it was relatively comfortable as City just kept possession and let the clock tick down for a huge three points. It was West Brom’s first home loss since January, and suddenly the pressure eases somewhat on Mancini. Of course, of he loses at home in Wednesday’s Manchester derby, it’s right back on the hot seat.

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