James Lawton: Enigma shows grotesque and great sides of character in defining win

 

Maybe only Mario Balotelli could quite so effectively deface a game that he came to decide in its last moments. It was a superb game and Balotelli is, of course, a superb talent but that didn't seem to matter so much when he delivered a stamping on the head of Scott Parker with cold deliberation.

The last World Cup final referee, Howard Webb, missed the incident but it seems inevitable the FA will be required to intervene.

This grotesque moment came in a game that might just have decided the Premier League title, a collision which burnt slowly and eventually glowed. Balotelli, of course, can do almost anything. Without, apparently, any reflection on the flashpoint with Parker he was composed enough to lure a previously excellent Ledley King into a tackle that made a penalty – and City's victory – almost inevitable.

It certainly finished that way when Balotelli produced another example of his trademarked nonchalance when given firing-squad duties. The enigma, of course, will rage on as long as Balotelli wears any colour of football shirt. His ability to be both exquisitely creative on the field and at times eccentrically kind off it are qualities that are forever thrust into a darker place.

In football the greatest requirement, apart from the enviable levels of skill that Balotelli touches so frequently, is a degree of professional consistency. If there was any doubt about the inherent contradictions of this young player it surely rested in the fact that he had decided this hugely significant match at a time when a vigilant referee would already have dispatched him to the dressing room.

Certainly, the Tottenham manager, Harry Redknapp, made it clear that if he envied his City rival Roberto Mancini's three points – and a massive stride towards the title – he could hardly imagine having to deal with questions about Balotelli. He said that he was happy it wasn't his problem, having to react to something that you should never see on a football field.

Certainly, if Redknapp felt great angst at the late slippage of a match which his team had appeared to have rescued with nerve and another stunning example of the extraordinary talent of one of the game's other superstars, the less tumultuous Gareth Bale, he was quite content to leave the questions of what anyone does about Mario beyond the northern end of the M1.

Bale, who in one morning headline was announced as a "£150m man", scored a goal which, if not quite worthy of such a breathtaking fee, was certainly one of the highest quality.

For City all this, of course, is in the margins of a dramatic day. Balotelli is Balotelli but, although he may yesterday have counted himself ahead in a difficult equation, he hasn't heard from the FA yet.

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