Mixed fortunes for Dzeko and Balotelli as City finally wake up

Manchester City 5 Notts County 0


Here was a tale of two strikers, whose contrasting departures from the field tell us which of the two is keeping his manager awake in the small hours.

The smile Edin Dzeko wore as he left was born of a job well done. It was not just the headed goal he had so needed after a week in which his current manager had questioned him and his former manager, Steve McClaren, suggested we may have to wait until next season to see the best of him. The 24-year-old's display represented a significant blossoming of his partnership with Carlos Tevez, whose 50th City goal in 74 games underlined the club's overwhelming dependence on him. Tevez's clipped cross delivered Dzeko's goal; Dzeko's two exquisite touches released Tevez for his own breakaway goal.

Mario Balotelli was – and is – a different story. Dzeko's starting partner yesterday is by far the more naturally gifted of the two strikers; so naturally gifted, in fact, that the manager sees him as developing into a name that chroniclers of the sport will one day bracket with Cristiano Ronaldo and Eric Cantona. But his snood was cast to the floor as he disappeared down the tunnel when substituted after a clash of heads with Krystian Pearce and his removal to hospital last night, undergoing tests on his head injury, contributed to the sense of chaos which so often surrounds him. There is no damage but this was another of those days when Balotelli looked like a head case. To go with the flashes of acceleration which make the 20-year-old so dangerous to defenders was his sixth yellow card of a season in which he has started only eight games.

Mancini, who can tame the 20-year-old if anyone can, brushed off the striker's pique with his usual insouciance last night. "Sure, he was unhappy," Mancini said. "But it was our plan. We decided before the game that he would play only 60 minutes [because it was] the first game he played from the start [in two and a half months]. I explained before the game that we play in four days' time and then on Sunday and then on Wednesday."

Privately, Mancini is more frustrated about Balotelli than he is showing, and his side's struggles in the first half an hour of this game revealed that his journey towards an established strike force is still in its infancy. Dzeko ended the game well but only because Tevez had arrived to oil the wheels. The Bosnian is a target man who found the net so prolifically for Wolfsburg because he had wingers delivering high balls in to him. City don't have that dimension.

Paul Ince's defence was so pitifully frail as to paper over the problem, though the kind of run City might have in the FA Cup suggests they will need a better oiled machine than this. Everton may lie ahead in the quarter-finals if they beat Reading and City progress beyond Aston Villa, and as Mancini quite rightly pointed out last night: "We never beat Everton." The manager said there were no signs that Balotelli had suffered renewed pain in the knee which has troubled him all season, though the news that Shay Given has aggravated the shoulder he dislocated last season, during last week's warm-up in Greece, is a more serious preoccupation. Given will visit a London doctor this week.

Mancini also said in his programme notes that his players had "learned what the FA Cup is all about at Meadow Lane" though this was not evident in an opening 25 minutes yesterday during which Ince's side deconstructed the notion once more that a club with a £152m squad will always dominate one worth considerably less than £50,000. The uncertainty Joe Hart displayed when he flapped at and missed a first-minute cross ran through Mancini's side. Hart had clawed Alan Gow's 10th-minute free-kick around a post before Karl Hawley delivered the outstanding moment of the first half, bending the ball right-footed beyond Hart and against the angle of his left-hand post from 20 yards.

This shook City out of their stupor. Micah Richards finally delivered Dzeko a cross and watched him hammer a header straight at Stephen Darby. Then, Patrick Vieira rose to Aleksandar Kolarov's 37th-minute corner to deposit the first of two goals.

The Frenchman's second just before the hour mark was very similar. Tevez arrived and transformed things, first running across the box to collect Gareth Barry's left-footed clipped pass and lift it on to Dzeko's head for the third. Dzeko returned the favour five minutes later, sending Tevez through to round the goalkeeper. Dzeko ought to have had a second and Vieira a third though Micah Richards' concluding goal underlines a return to form which gives Mancini one less thing to worry about. With City such a work in progress, the manager has reason to be grateful for that.


Subs: Man City Tevez 7 (Balotelli, 60), Jo (Silva, 80), Barry (Y Touré, 81). Unused Taylor (gk), Kompany, Boateng, Nimely. Notts County Thompson 6 (Darby, 60), Gobern (Hughes, 80), Chilvers (Pearce, 90). Unused Burch (gk), Lee, Spicer, Smith. Booked: Man City Balotelli. Notts County Hawley. Man of the match Silva. Match rating 7/10. Possession Man City 54% Notts County 46%. Attempts on target Man City 13 Notts County 3.

Referee M Jones (Cheshire). Att 27,276.

German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
Pepper, the 3ft 11in shiny box of circuits who can tell jokes and respond to human emotions
techDavid McNeill tests the mettle of one of the new generation of androids being developed in Tokyo
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice