Aleksandar Kolarov racism probe as Roberto Mancini's troubles grow
Manchester City victory over Newcastle marred by incident
It was hard to know where the biggest problem lay as Manchester City rolled out of St James' Park on Saturday afternoon.
Aleksandar Kolarov will this week speak to Northumbria Police following a pitch-side argument with a supporter waving an Albanian flag as he warmed up during the first half of a 3-1 win for Roberto Mancini's side.
The police revealed after the game that they had received a report of racist language having been used. Kolarov, a Serb, is accused of racially abusing the Albanian flag-waving supporter as he ran along the touchline. There is a history of tension between Serbia and Albania, particularly over the disputed Kosovo region.
Kolarov, who went on to the field of play in the 38th minute, was withdrawn in the 72nd. For the rest of the game he sat in the dugout.
Members of the Northumbria force, along with Newcastle United security staff, will also sift through video evidence to see if they can identify the City fan who threw a smoke grenade into the home club's family enclosure after Sergio Aguero's opening goal. It did not hurt anyone but that is down to fortune and nothing else. The grenade was thrown seven days after a City supporter had split open the face of Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand with a coin, hurled at the Etihad Stadium. These are potentially huge problems that Mancini cannot possibly have foreseen.
Manchester City are highly unlikely to face charges for the smoke-grenade incident but the fan, if identified, will face prosecution. Pyrotechnics are banned from Premier League stadiums. He could also face a ban from every ground in the country.
The grenade was thrown when City went ahead, after Aguero had rounded off a superb move that involved Samir Nasri and a defence-splitting pass from Yaya Touré. Kolarov's row came during a period in the first half when the league champions were excellent. But off the field, matters feel uncontrollable at times for City. Mario Balotelli was not even asked to travel to the North-east. The thought must have been that controversy would drop in his absence. It didn't.
The side even adopted part of his split personality. After Javi Garcia headed in their second, in the 39th minute, again after bad defending by Davide Santon, they should have marched on to easy victory. Instead they stumbled. Newcastle fought valiantly after the interval, grabbing a goal through Demba Ba. City, so in control in the first half, had to hang on to earn three valuable points, Yaya Touré finishing the home fightback in the 78th minute.
"I think if we put our heads in our job we can do very very well, like today, but if we think we can play with only one foot, it is difficult," said Mancini. "Tevez and Aguero play very well together and this is very important but we have also Edin [Dzeko] and Mario [Balotelli]. Edin, when he came on, did very well and he was an important player at that moment, and to win here you need to play very well with your whole team."
Newcastle too were left scratching around for good news. It was not coming. Hatem Ben Arfa is unlikely to play until the second week of January because of a hamstring injury.
"He is out for next week and probably the whole Christmas period," said manager Alan Pardew. "It was touch and go about how serious it was. Where he is, there is a danger he could tear that and if he did that he would be out for two or three months, whereas if we do it the right way, and be sensible about it, it may only be three weeks, and obviously that is the route it looks like we are going to take."
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