Balotelli's tunnel vision
Manchester City 3 Sunderland 0:MARIO BALOTELLI is unlikely to face action from Manchester City after he walked straight down the tunnel when substituted against Sunderland on Saturday according to the club.
The Italian was taken off for Sergio Agüero in the 56th minute after an indifferent display during City’s 3-0 win against Sunderland. Balotelli did not make any eye contact with his manager, Roberto Mancini, as he headed for the dressing room.
David Platt, the assistant manager, added: “I don’t know why he did that. He doesnt normally.” Balotelli flew home to join up with his national squad in Italy immediately after the match, but is not expected to be disciplined.
After the win, Mancini said: “I am happy with Mario, he played a good game.”
Ahead of kick-off Mancini was super-confident. “I know what the problem is with our performance and I will solve it very quickly. We will improve,” he said. Ninety minutes later, the Italian was proved right. Manchester City had a first clean sheet of the campaign, as Sunderland were splayed, and Pablo Zabaleta suggested the sticky start to their title defence may be over.
Thumping free-kicks from Aleksandar Kolarov and James Milner plus a sweet Sergio Aguero goal ended Sunderland’s unbeaten league record, as Mancini finally discovered the magic formula.
On this showing it consists of replacing three of the regular back-four, selecting James Milner and Gareth Barry as the holding midfielders, playing Yaya Toure as the focal point of an attacking trident, and restoring Carlos Tevez to the XI. Before this outing Mancini’s side had allowed 16 goals in all competitions.
A prime factor in this sequence ending was a 24-year-old English defender who had not begun a match since April 11th.
The news is that Micah Richards was a force on his return from injury, the contribution in defence and attack illustrating that if consistency is added, Mancini will find leaving him out difficult.
Dropped as a starter towards the end of last season, Richards lined up alongside Joleon Lescott in central defence with the excellent Kolarov at left-back, and Pablo Zabaleta on the right. The Argentinian, the only first-choice of this quartet, pointed to the Richards factor in Sunderland’s failure to score.
“Micah came back to the team, he was very solid at the back,” he said, before alluding to the spoiling work of Milner and Barry. “It’s not just about four defenders, the team did a fantastic game so I’m happy for the result. The first clean sheet for us of the season so that’s good for the team, for the defenders to get confidence.”