MAN CITY 2, BOLTON 0
An own goal by Gretar Steinsson and a predatory finish by Mario Balotelli helped City to a comfortable win over Bolton but the visitors could have suffered a heavier defeat but for some great saves by their goalkeeper Adam Bogdan.
Balotelli may have scored the goal that finished off Bolton’s hopes of getting something from the game but he also spurned a succession of chances carved out by a freshened up City side and was denied a clear penalty when he was pulled down by Zat Knight in the area in the second half.
With some players coming back tired and injured from the international break Roberto Mancini chose to rotate his squad with one eye on the Europa League game in Lisbon next week but his preparations were hardly ideal after tabloid newspaper reports of Mario Balotelli staying out until the early hours of Friday morning and being apparently pictured coming out of a strip club in Liverpool.
“I had Aguero, Silva, Zabaleta, and Kolarov come back in Thursday night and Friday tired. Zaba was tired but Micah was injured and we only had one fullback so we had to risk Zaba. Now we have a problem because he hurt his hamstring.”
Mancini also wanted to get the facts from his eccentric Italian striker before making a decision as he addressed the latest Balotelli tabloid allegations with levity:
“I don’t know if it’s true because I heard about this here at the stadium because I didn’t read the newspaper. I prepared for this game with Mario and some fresh players. I will speak with Mario tomorrow.
“I am disppointed for him, because he’s a professional player. If it’s true we will fine him the maximum possible.
“Mario played well, he had a lot of chances but maybe next time he goes to sleep early he will score three or four goals!”
Gael Clichy, Gareth Barry, Samir Nasri and David Pizarro were the changes from the side that beat Blackburn last week, while Aleksandar Kolarov, Nigel De Jong, Sergio Aguero, and David Silva were rested. Micah Richards was not in the squad following an injury sustained during the England match last week.
City’s opening goal came from an unexpected source with Gael Clichy chancing his arm in the 23rd minute. His left wing shot from the corner of the 18 yard area looked an easy take for Adam Bogdan but Gretar Steinsson got his head to it and deflected it into the net at the near post leaving Bolton’s Hungarian ‘keeper stranded.
City could have been 3-0 up within 4 minutes at the Etihad against Bolton in a storming start. Samir Nasri had a shot blocked after Pablo Zabeleta’s cross, Mario Balotelli’s first effort came off Bogan and hit the post and the Hungarian saved Nasri’s follow up, and then Adam Johnson’s cross was just behind Balotelli but the Italian dug the ball out only to drag his shot wide to the left of the Bolton goal.
City sustained an injury blow when Zabaleta later went off injured with a hamstring issue and had to be replaced by Kolo Toure.
Despite conceding those three early chances, Bolton provided stiffer opposition than Blackburn did last week despite their tendency to drop deep and could have pulled one back by half time when Ryo Miyaichi stole free on the left flank and forced Hart into a save from an acute angle.
Adam Bogdan was to prove Bolton’s hero after making further saves from Balotelli and Kolo Toure but City were denied a clear penalty when Zat Knight hauled down Balotelli in the area and the bar came to Bolton’s rescue in the 65th minute when Darren Pratley’s attempt to steal the ball off Edin Dzeko turned into a chip towards his own goal that came off the woodwork.
The relief was short lived, however, as City turned up the heat and forced Bolton into a series of errors and eventually bagged their second goal in the 70th minute after Adam Johnson ran into the area, wriggled past three defenders and Bogdan who had gone to ground before backheeling the ball to Mario Balotelli who couldn’t miss the open goal from 6 yards out.