Balotelli on best behaviour as City bounce back

Blackburn Rovers 0 Manchester City 4: After the midweek mayhem in Munich, Mancini's men turn in a convincing performance as their wayward Italian striker's strong display is rewarded with a goal

Ewood Park

Normal domestic service resumed for Manchester City's title-chasing squad, as they put paid to a feeble Blackburn Rovers side to help ease the pain caused by their Champions League humiliation in Munich last week.

Deprived of the striking powers of Carlos Tevez, after the Argentinian's shameful show of disrespect to his employers at the Allianz Arena, and choosing for all but the last couple of minutes to do without their top scorer, Edin Dzeko, after a less serious display of insubordination in Germany, City still possessed far too much talent for struggling Rovers.

Mario Balotelli, who has given Roberto Mancini, City's manager, at least as many headaches as Tevez and Dzeko combined, played the role of good guy here to ensure City did not let valuable points slip away. The moody Italian was rewarded for a persistent display against Blackburn's unconvincing rearguard with the second of City's four second-half goals, after a most disappointing first half.

Balotelli, who had been instrumental in City's previous League win, against Everton, scored his third goal in successive matches when he swooped on a cross to the near post by Samir Nasri to guide a volley past Paul Robinson, who three minutes earlier had been comprehensively beaten by Adam Johnson's rising drive from the edge of the penalty area.

Nasri sealed what was ultimately an emphatic victory by taking all of the extraordinary amount of time he was afforded in the box to ram a deflected shot past Robinson, and the substitute Stefan Savic completed the rout three minutes from the end by heading home Nasri's left-wing cross.

The third of those four body blows to a struggling Blackburn side brought angry cries of "Kean out!" from the home faithful in a 24,760 crowd, but the beleaguered manager, Steve Kean, left no room for doubt that Blackburn will have to sack him to get rid of him. The manager has no intention of resigning. "I am 100 per cent committed to seeing this through," he said. "Given time, I firmly believe we can turn things round.

"It was the same last season. We were everybody's favourites to go down but each time we got criticised we came back stronger, and I'm looking for a similar reaction here. As for the fans, of course it disappoints me to hear them calling for my head. But I would much rather they continue venting their anger at me than turn on the players."

Mancini did not hang around. Club officials explained that the manager had carried out a long-standing plan to fly to his native Italy at the start of an international week.

David Platt, the first-team coach, carried out the post-match analysis, with the subject of Tevez again being declared taboo. Platt was happy to heap praise on Balotelli, though, on the back of his more mature and committed approach tohis duties.

"He's filled a lot of column inches in recent months, a lot of them negative," said Platt. "But this time they should be positive, and he deserves all the praise he gets from this more mature performance."

So in the end Mancini, whose name was bellowed out by the delighted visiting fans as the teams left the pitch, did not suffer from making a determined public declaration that he was still in control of selection matters in the blue half of Manchester. Initially, it had appeared that he ran the risk of cutting off his nose to spite his face.

Having indicated that he was prepared to forgive Dzeko, his talented Bosnian striker, for playing a catalytic role in the Munich mini-mutiny, he still wanted to punish his leading scorer with a further brief period of exile on the substitutes' bench.

Even when his other main striker, Sergio Aguero, pulled up with a groin injury midway through a tepid first half, Mancini stuck to his guns and sent on Nasri ahead of Dzeko when the situation was crying outfor a killer thrust against uncertain opponents.

The manager eventually restored Dzeko to the City ranks as a third substitute, moments after his second replacement, Savic, had enjoyed his late piece of glory.

By then Blackburn were a spent force. The Rovers players, who had come to their manager's rescue by defeating Arsenal in a 4-3 thriller here two weeks ago, rarely threatened to repeat that morale-boosting victory. Shots in each half by Ayegbeni Yakubu, both comfortably dealt with by Joe Hart, were the best of their isolated attacking efforts.

Blackburn Rovers (4-5-1): Robinson; Lowe, Samba, Dann, Givet; Goodwillie (Formica, 61), N'Zonzi, Petrovic, Pedersen, Hoilett; Yakubu.

Manchester City (4-2-3-1): Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Kolarov; Y Touré, Milner; Johnson (Savic, 79), Silva, Balotelli (Dzeko, 88); Aguero (Nasri, 27).

Referee Phil Dowd.

Man of the match Balotelli (Man City)

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