Balotelli marks debut with winning goal for City
FC Timisoara 0 Manchester City 1
Mario Balotelli made a dream debut for Manchester City with the winning goal against FC Timisoara in the Europa League play-off first leg.
The former Inter Milan striker stepped off the bench to stun Timisoara and hand his side the advantage going into the return game next Thursday at Eastlands.
Balotelli, 20, proved to be a handful and has already repaid the first part of his reported £24million transfer fee.
After a slow start on a humid night, England's biggest spenders were good value for the victory thanks to a positive second half performance.
Urged on by a large partisan crowd, Timisoara opened with confidence and sprayed the ball about well.
The home fans screamed for a penalty after 14 minutes when Alexandru Curtean went to ground following a challenge from Pablo Zabaleta.
German referee Florian Mayer ignored their pleas and had no hesitation in waving play on.
City, with a small pocket of supporters backing them, were taking their time getting into the game. Carlos Tevez was dropping deep on occasions, leaving Emmanuel Adebayor up front on his own.
Roberto Mancini's side then won a free-kick 25 yards out in the 30th minute after David Silva was tripped by Alexandru Bourceanu.
Tevez stepped up and tried to float his effort beyond Costel Pantilimon but the goalkeeper saved at the post.
Play switched back down the other end and Cosmin Contra cracked in a shot from an acute angle that was deflected to safety.
City, however, were beginning to look dangerous and David Silva picked out Tevez at the back post.
He tried to chest the ball into the path of Adebayor but his pass was intercepted and the move broke down.
Srgian Luchin became the first player to be booked with a stiff challenge on Tevez that left the striker hobbling.
Tevez dusted himself down and picked out Gareth Barry a minute before half-time with the midfielder lurking on the edge of the area.
He was about to shoot only for Luchin to show good positioning and take the ball off his toes.
City were on the front foot at the start of the second half and Adebayor found Zabaleta on the edge of the area. He tried his luck on goal only for his effort to finish nearer the corner flag.
Back came Timisoara and Dan Alexa slipped a glorious through ball to Mircea Axente in the 51st minute.
The striker whipped in a shot but Joe Hart got down quickly to make a comfortable save.
Mancini decided to switch things around and handed Balotelli his debut in the 57th minute when the 20-year-old replaced Gareth Barry.
The Italian's arrival improved City's attacking options as they went in search of an important away goal.
Silva had put in a hard shift and was taken off in the 66th minute with Adam Johnson coming on.
City were beginning to put the pressure on and Balotelli found the side netting a minute later after a misplaced overhead kick by Tevez.
Then Yaya Toure's thunderbolt came back off the post following a corner from Balotelli as Timisoara began to buckle.
City made the breakthrough with Balotelli showing a cool head to sweep the ball home from close range after being set up by Adebayor.
It was just the boost City were looking for with the second leg to come next Thursday at Eastlands and they are now favourites to progress to the group stages.
Latest in Sport
Monaco is a street circuit where driver ability is more important than anywhere else and if we take ...
by Gareth Purnell
24 May 2013 02:00 AM
Three weeks ago as I drove off the Eurostar, I remember thinking what a very long time it was until ...
by Martin Ayres
23 May 2013 05:29 PM
McDowell did brilliantly to land the World Match Play title in Bulgaria last week, but it’s a format...
by Gareth Purnell
23 May 2013 09:13 AM
David Moyes delighted after Rio Ferdinand agrees to stay at Manchester United with new one-year contract
Sergio Garcia / Tiger Woods 'fried chicken' racism row takes fresh twist after 'coloured athletes' comment
After racist remark, Sergio Garcia fights for reputation as Tiger Woods slams 'hurtful' fried chicken joke
New Manchester City manager must deliver five trophies in five years
Manchester United slash interest bill by £10m a year
- 1 Pope Francis: Being an atheist is alright as long as you do good
- 2 Man and woman arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder victim of Woolwich machete attack, named as Drummer Lee Rigby
- 3 'Sickening, deluded and unforgivable': Horrific attack brings terror to London’s streets
- 4 Archaeologists uncover nearly 5,000 cave paintings in Burgos, Mexico
- 5 Lord of the Sings: Sir Christopher Lee, 91, to release heavy metal album
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Nook is donating eReaders to volunteers at high-need schools and participating in exclusive events throughout the campaign.
Get the latest on The Evening Standard's campaign to get London's children reading.
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.