Balotelli quick off mark to put City in the ascendancy

FC Timisoara 0 Manchester City 1

Mario Balotelli made a dream debut for Manchester City, scoring the winning goal against FC Timisoara in the Europa League play-off first leg.

The former Internazionale striker stepped off the bench to 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 £24m transfer fee.

The City manager, Roberto Mancini, said: "He had a great debut and I am happy that he scored. He is a good player. He needs to improve, of course, and get to know everybody." But after Balotelli had picked up a booking for losing his cool Mancini also warned: "We must work on this with him because it will be different in the Premier League than in Italy."

The manager had made three changes to his side, with Pablo Zabaleta, Joleon Lescott and Emmanuel Adebayor all returning.

Urged on by a large, partisan crowd on a balmy night, Timisoara opened with confidence and sprayed the ball about well. City responded and captain Carlos Tevez tried to release Adebayor in the 13th minute but put too much weight on the pass.

There was a scare for Mancini's side when Kolo Touré was poleaxed by Alexandru Bourceanu's shot. But Touré made a rapid recovery.

Timisoara had the first real chance of the second half as Dan Alexa slipped a glorious through-ball to Mircea Axente. The striker whipped in a shot but Hart got down quickly to save.

Mancini handed Balotelli his debut in the 57th minute when the 20-year-old replaced Gareth Barry. Balotelli found the side netting a minute later after a misplaced overhead kick by Tevez. Then Yaya Touré's thunderbolt came back off the post following a corner from Balotelli.

City finally made the breakthrough when Balotelli showed a cool head to sweep the ball home from close in after being set up by Adebayor.

FC Timisoara (4-4-2): Pantilimon; Luchin, Scutaru (Zicu, 71), Cisovsky, Sepsi; Contra (Mera, 80), Alexa, Bourceanu, Curtean; Magera (Goga, 83), Axente. Substitutes not used Taborda (gk), Popovic, Dukic, Poparadu.

Manchester City (4-4-2): Hart; Lescott, Kompany, K Touré, Zabaleta; Barry (Balotelli, 57), Y Touré, Silva (A Johnson, 66), De Jong; Tevez (Jo, 77), Adebayor. Substitutes not used Given (gk), Richards, Wright-Phillips, Vieira.

Referee F Meyer (Germany).

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