MAN CITY 3, TOTTENHAM 2
Leaders Manchester City snatched the most dramatic victory imaginable against Barclays Premier League title rivals Tottenham.
Only eight seconds of the four minutes of injury time remained when City substitute Mario Balotelli won the penalty which he scored to give City victory in what could prove a pivotal moment in the championship race.
Whether Balotelli ought to have still been on the field was another matter and the subject for fierce argument after the Italian had earlier appeared to deliberately aim a stamp to the head of Scott Parker as the midfield man lay on the ground after a tangle.
Spurs manager Harry Redknapp was convinced Balotelli ought to have been shown a red card and believes the Football Association ought to view the incident retrospectively.
He said: “I am sure everybody has seen it. It is not the first time he has done it and I am sure it won’t be the last.
“I didn’t see what reason he had to back heel Scott in the head when he was on the floor. It is not a nice thing to do and there is no place for it in football.”
City first-team coach David Platt, who conducted the post-match interviews, said he was unable to comment as he had not viewed replays of the incident.
Platt described it as a “great victory” but added manager Roberto Mancini was far from happy.
He continued: “If you are 2-0 up and your opponents create a goal you hold up your hands.
“We gifted them their first goal and it gave them a foothold back into the game and the manager made it clear in no uncertain terms he was not happy with that.”
It was a pity the Balotelli incident overshadowed a second half which Platt described as “pulsating.”
City established a 2-0 lead through goals from Samir Nasri and Joleon Lescott before Spurs hit back as Jermain Defoe and Gareth Bale found the net in a remarkable 10-minute spell.
Defoe had a great chance to snatch victory for Spurs in stoppage time before Balotelli won and scored the penalty in the dying seconds which gave City what could prove a priceless victory in the title quest.
City made only one change from their previous game at Wigan as the fit again Micah Richards replaced Pablo Zabaleta at right back.
It was evident from the early stages that it would be a tightly-contested encounter between two evenly-matched teams.
Indeed, it took almost 18 minutes before either side carved out a clear-cut chance.
The first of three first-half openings, which all came City’s way, followed a neat build up involving Nasri and David Silva who cut the ball back from the by line for Sergio Aguero to fire narrowly wide at the near post.
Aguero then turned provider setting for Silva whose shot from the left side of the penalty wide flew just wide of the far post.
The only time either keeper was forced into action in the opening period came when Richards’ powerful forward burst set up Aguero whose shot was well kept out by the legs of Brad Friedel as the Spurs keeper spread himself well.
The deadlock was broken in the 55th minute after a piece of magic from Silva whose forward pass split the Spurs defence as Nasri raced through to smash a shot high past Friedel for his fourth goal of the season.
And four minutes later City were celebrating again after doubling their advantage when Lescott bundled home a Nasri corner from on the line as both the player and ball ended up in the back of the net for his first of the campaign.
If City thought they were home and dry, they were mistaken as Spurs halved the deficit on the hour after an awful mistake from Stefan Savic.
The central defender’s miscued header let in Defoe who raced clear and rounded keeper Joe Hart to score a gift 12th of the season.
Spurs drew level with the four goal of a remarkable 10-minute spell as Aaron Lennon cut in from the left and teed up Bale who looped a delightful shot over Hart from the edge of the box, his eighth goal of the season.
City were lucky not to be reduced to 10 men for the final seven minutes after referee Howard Webb failed to notice a stamp by Balotelli to the face of Parker as the midfield man lay on the ground after a tangle.
Spurs had a great chance to win the game in the first of four minutes of added time when Bale broke down the left and crossed for Defoe, sliding in at the far post, to roll the ball agonisingly wide before colliding with the upright.
It was to prove a costly miss as eight seconds from the end, City won a penalty after Balotelli was fouled by Ledley King and Balotelli picked himself up to drill home the spot kick low past Friedel.