Balotelli has a good day after night on the town

Manchester City 2 Bolton Wanderers 0

etihad stadium

There are times in every sportsman's career when you need to win and for Mario Balotelli that moment arrived yesterday. He had responded to being dropped by Italy for what are loosely termed "behavioural issues" by taking himself off to Liverpool and emerging in the small hours of Friday morning from a strip club straight into a photographer's flashgun. It was around a quarter to three.

Balotelli drinks nothing stronger than espresso and the visit to the imaginatively-titled X in the City club might be regarded as part of his education in the same way as his descent upon a women's prison in Brescia or his Christmas journey around the streets of Manchester handing out money to anyone who looked homeless.

Nevertheless, his manager, Roberto Mancini, admitted to being shocked when told of the incident, although he would perhaps not have been as upset as Balotelli's girlfriend, Rafaella Fico, to whom he had dedicated his goal in last Saturday's 3-0 win over Blackburn.

If anything, last week's result was even more straightforward than this, which was Manchester City's 19th straight victory at the Etihad Stadium.

"I only heard about this when I came to the stadium and I will have to speak with him tomorrow," Mancini said. "I am really disappointed because this is not correct. He is a professionalfootballer and he cannot stay out until two in the morning. If this story is true, we will fine him the maximum we can." This will be two weeks' wages.

At least Balotelli scored, though his manager joked that if he had had more sleep, he might have had four. And at least Manchester City won to stretch their lead, however briefly, to five points, although for what it is worth Mancini thought Manchester United would beat Tottenham this afternoon. "I have said before we have to win 10 games to win the championship," he added.

Mancini's fury had his team dropped points could be imagined. Cesare Prandelli had dropped Balotelli from the Italy squad that faced the United States in Genoa on Wednesday and seen his principles backfire in the shape of a 1-0 defeat. In that sense Balotelli was fortunate – City won.

Timing is everything in these situations. David Gower is fond of recalling how on an England tour of the West Indies he and Ian Botham were photographed drinking champagne on a yacht as it cruised the Caribbean while the rest of his players enjoyed a warm-up game. When they returned to shore it was to a phalanx of reporters who wanted to know where England's captain had been while their side had been bowled out for 94 by the Windward Islands. Had they won, there would have been no story.

There was never much of a danger that Manchester City would lose. Bolton performed with slightly more grit than Blackburn Rovers had mustered the week before but Joe Hart had only one serious shot to save, tipping Ryo Miyachi's shot wide.

It had the feel of a game between sides who knew this would not be a decisive contest. Bolton were 20-1 to win a two-horse race and they did not look as if they had bet on themselves. The games that will decide their future come later in the month; against Queens Park Rangers, Blackburn and Wolverhampton Wanderers. If they are still second bottom when April arrives, the alarm bells should be shrieking around the Reebok Stadium.

Balotelli began as if he knew he had to make an impression. By the time the game was half an hour old, he had aimed five shots at Bolton's goal and, just before the interval, had seen a sixth blocked by Adam Bogdan's boots. In the opening exchanges, he took Yaya Touré's pass and slammed a shot against Bogdan's post. Samir Nasri, following up, drove the rebound straight at the Bolton goalkeeper.

The opening goal had long been coming but when it finally arrived, it was with an enormous slice of fortune as Gaël Clichy's shot deflected wildly off Gretar Steinsson's head to the extent that Bogdan did not attempt to save it.

And that really was that. Were Bolton to claim the 20-1 odds against them, they would surely have had to score first and when Balotelli landed the second the match was over. It was brilliantly created by Adam Johnson, who wriggled past Sam Ricketts and Zat Knight and then, as he fell between the goalkeeper and David Wheater, backheeled to Balotelli a few yards from goal. Even after a night on the streets of Liverpool, he could not have missed.

Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Hart; Zabaleta (K.Toure 19), Kompany, Lescott, Clichy; Pizarro (Dzeko 62), Barry, Johnson, Y.Toure, Nasri (Dzeko 84); Balotelli.

Bolton (4-1-4-1): Bogdan; Steinsson, Wheater, Knight, Ricketts; Ream; M.Davies, Pratley (Muamba 87), Reo-Coker, Miyaichi; Ngog.

Referee Mark Clattenburg.

Man of the match Y Touré (Manchester City).

Match rating 5/10.

A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
A polar bear’s diet is rich in seal blubber and half of its own body weight is composed of fat
Life and Style
fashion David Beckham fronts adverts for his underwear collection
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Arts and Entertainment
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape