Kiev cash in after sickly Balotelli gives Mancini another headache
Dynamo Kiev 2 Manchester City 0
Cold, sore-headed, nauseous. That was just how Roberto Mancini felt last night after watching his Manchester City side capitulate to a defeat which, to judge by the way Dynamo Kiev maintained that Ukrainian reputation for industry, leaves his side's hopes of European progress looking faint.
It was also how Mario Balotelli seemed to feel as the sides prepared to begin the second half in temperatures of minus six celsius and the apparent battle of wills between the young Italian – who seemingly didn't want to play on – and his manager – who insisted he did – contributed unfortunately to the way the evening unravelled in the snowscape.
Mancini last night put Balotelli's problems down to an allergy, the latest instalment in a series of problems which included the nausea and sickness midway through an FA Cup tie last month which caused him to be taken to hospital. "He had an allergy, I don't know what, his face was swollen, I don't know why," Mancini said. "He wanted to come out for the second half but he had this problem ten seconds before coming out. I came out one minute before the players and I didn't see Mario. He said 'I can play' but his face was swollen."
It is understood that the striker has an allergy to certain types of grass but despite being given two shots of anti-histamine during the half time interval, his face was continuing to swell. City's doctors decided against trying an adrenaline shot, too. The farcical events surrounding his appearance after the interval did not help City's attempts to establish a platform though. Kiev reappeared several minutes before them, Mancini's assistant David Platt seemed to have to fetch Balotelli from the dressing room for the second half and referee Florian Meyer intervened, ordering that he receive treatment. Balotelli's contribution was only to last 13 second half minutes before he was making way for Carlos Tevez. By then, Balotelli had earned the ninth yellow card of his City career. Mancini did not afford his young compatriot a glance as he walked past, head in hands. One more bizarre episode in a bizarre City career.
City's problems were more profound than this charade, though. The midfield of Gareth Barry, Yaya Touré and Aleksander Kolarov could not get a foothold on the match and Edin Dzeko looked as isolated a figure as Balotelli. Only David Silva melted the blistering cold and City's entire attacking intent all night was limited to Touré's shot from a Barry layback, which was touched aside. Mancini last night blamed the defeat on two "stupid goals", though his interpretation that "the match was good, we played well" was hard to accept.
There was hospitality of sorts here – the Ukrainian announcer sounded delighted with his knowledge of "Blue Moon" as he eccentrically introduced it – but there were few other comforts. The snowy banks sloped down through the trees to a pitch hardened by a grim Ukrainian winter and it seemed a very long way from, the Champions League arenas City strive for. Yuri Semin's side did not look like one bearing gifts either. His return, on Christmas Eve, to the club he took to the Uefa Cup semi-final in 2009 has brought a renaissance and a run of nine games unbeaten.
Mancini sought what protection he could and his side started quite well. Balotelli had an instant opportunity to radically affect the tie but volleyed Kolarov's corner high into the night sky. But nothing could legislate for Andrei Shevchenko's brief dominance, which was compounded by poor defending.
The exciting 21-year-old Andrei Yarmolenko shimmied past Silva on the Kiev left, placed a hard, low cross and Shevchenko's reaction was sharper than Joe Hart's as he looped it into the net on 24 minutes. Hart might have reacted quicker, as might City have allowed Yarmolenko less space. It was a 67th European goal for continental competition's third-highest scorer and his celebration exuded the satisfaction of one who feels British football never knew the best of him.
It was another dangerous Ukrainian, Oleg Gusev, who capitalised on more defensive indecision to leave the return leg looking so difficult. Hart and Micah Richards dithered over a flick-on from the dangerous Artem Milesvskiy and Gusev volleyed home from eight yards. Only Lescott's fine tackle prevented Gusev escaping to score a third.
The film Escape to Victory was based on the heroics of players from the ranks of Dynamo Kiev and the title of the picture sums up the task facing Mancini's side next week. The Italian needs the Ukrainians to suffer the travel sickness next time.
Dynamo Kiev (4-2-3-1): Shovkovski; Silva, Khacheridi, Yussuf, Popov; Vukojevic, Eremenko; Gusev, Shevchenko (Ninkovic, 88), Yarmolenko; Milevski. Substitutes not used Koval, Betao, Garmash, Kravets, Almeida, Guilherme.
Manchester City (4-3-3) Hart; Richards, Kompany, Lescott, Kolarov (Wright-Phillips, 82); Zabaleta, Y Touré, Barry; Silva, Dzeko, Balotelli (Tevez, 57). Substitutes not used Taylor, Boateng, Vieira, De Jong, Boyata
Referee F Meyer (Germany).
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