Manchester City remain three ahead of United

Updated: January 23, 2012

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A Mario Balotelli penalty gave Manchester City a crucial victory over fellow title challengers Spurs at the Ethiad Stadium.

Balotelli’s winner in the 95th minute keeps City on top of the league and puts a serious dent in the Londoners title aspirations.

After playing out a goalless first half both sides sprung into live with four goals coming in a ten minute spell after the break.
City had taken a commanding two goal lead through Samir Nasri and Jolean Lescott only to lose it immediately as Jermaine Defoe and Gareth Bale drew Spurs level before Balotelli’s late intervention.
A cagey opening was suggestive of two sides desperate not to lose although the game, although the level of passing by both teams was still exceptional at times.
It was clear that Spurs would look to get wide men Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale one on one against Cities fullbacks Micah Richards and Gael Clichy.
Clichy looked a little vulnerable, especially with Kyle Walker bombing forward in support, and the Frenchman was booked in the early exchanges for a cynical handball following a quick throw.
On the other side however Richards was immense keeping Bale quiet to such a degree that the Welshman switched wings in the early going. Indeed Bale like most of his attacking counterparts seemed indecisive in the final third in the first half.
The winger did create one moment of panic in the City box firing in a low cross that Defoe was inches from turning into the net.
At the other end Cities few first half chances fell to Sergio Aguero who was unusually wasteful in front of goal.
First the Argentinean fired off his teammate Edin Dzeko from just six yards out on 20 minutes. He spurned another great chance ten minutes later when he shot straight at Friedal when a pass to an unmarked Silva looked like the better option.
That combination of Silva and Aguero looked the most likely to create a goal with Spurs looking comfortable in possession without really threatening Joe Hart.
They started the second half with a renewed vigour forcing a succession of corners in the opening minutes as Spurs struggled to cope with the increased tempo.
Harry Redknapp’s side quickly came to terms with it and could have taken the lead after their best move of the match, however Bake mis-kicked after Van Der Vaart’s pull back.
That mistake was immediately and ruthlessly punished. Within sixty seconds they were behind. Silva’s magnificent through ball found Samir Nasri, who for once had eluded Walker.
The Frenchman’s finish was emphatic as his shot tore past Friedal into the net.
Spurs had barely had time to cope with going behind when they were two down. Silva forced a corner from which Dzeko’s flick on was somehow bundled into the net by a tripping Jolean Lescott.
The game appeared over. However within sixty seconds Spurs were back in it as a horrific Stefan Savic back header allowed Defoe to easily round Hart and slot into an empty net.
Five minutes later Spurs were level. Manager Harry Redknapp watched open mouthed as the previously anonymous Bale gave Joe Hart no chance with a brilliant curling finish.
All the momentum was now with the Londoners but the introduction of Balotelli by Roberto Mancini proved the difference and he slotted home the winner from the penalty spot after being fouled by King in the third minute of stoppage time.
Whether he should have had the chance to convert it was another matter. The fiery Italian was booked for an altercation on Parker with replays suggesting he had aimed a kick at the midfielders head. Redknapp for one was livid and he may have had a point.
However Howard Webb saw things differently and City may well look back on this victory in May as one that brought them the title.

Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur by neyukel

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