City title hopes go up in smoke as Balotelli explodes

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Arsenal 1 Manchester City 0

The Emirates Stadium

If Mario Balotelli achieved one thing for his manager Roberto Mancini yesterday then at least he could say he drew some of the fire upon himself on a dreadful afternoon for the club. Unfortunately for Mancini, even with the distracting chaos that Balotelli wrought at the Emirates the bottom line from a crucial day in the Premier League season is still that this defeat was the day that Manchester City tossed the title away.

It will take a miracle for City to make up eight points on the leaders Manchester United over the remaining six games. Not everything can be blamed upon the erratic, impulsive Balotelli - a "clown" at the circus, in the words of Gary Neville. Even if the Italian were to gatecrash his next press conference with a squirty flower and a red nose, he alone is not the reason that City appear to have blown their first title since 1968.

Balotelli's challenge on Alex Song on 26 minutes, that was worthy of a red card, and the striker's second yellow card of the day for a tackle on Bacary Sagna in injury-time at the end of the game, were low points for City. But they were not the only ones. Without David Silva, a shadow of his former self recently, and Yaya Toure off injured early there was precious little fight left in Mancini's team.

At the end of the game, David Platt, Mancini's assistant, appeared to be motioning a group of players including Carlos Tevez, a late substitute, Aleksandar Kolarov and David Pizarro over to acknowledge the away fans in the far corner of the ground. That they walked straight past him and down the tunnel just about summed up City's rotten day.

City's run in the league is now one win in five. Mancini has not yet conceded the title, and who can blame him, but for the first time yesterday, Arsene Wenger was asked if he could catch City in second place. The difference is ten points and ordinarily that would be considered impossible but City's form has gone so dramatically that it is difficult to say when they might recover.

The blame and recrimination is never far away at any club where large amounts of money have been thrown at winning trophies. The obvious conclusion is that City have choked but it did not look like a loss of nerve yesterday; it looked like their form had gone altogether. Balotelli's behaviour was the icing on the cake but the problems go deeper.

For Arsenal, rarely has there been so much jubilation at handing a league title to United as there was at the final whistle. Their victory puts them two points ahead of Spurs back in fourth place and in pole position for the Champions League places. They have have won eight out of their last nine Premier League games and, but for a rally by City after half-time, they controlled the game.

Wenger said on Friday that it was in the last 15 minutes of big matches – the "money-time", as he called it – that titles were lost and won. Arsenal long ceased to be relevant in this particular title race but when the pressure was on yesterday they looked a much more mature team than the one that started the season. There were fine performances in midfield from Arteta and Tomas Rosicky and, for once, the winner did not come from Van Persie.

As for City, they were without the injured David Silva from the beginning, although his form has been fading for some time. Yaya Toure picked up a silly booking in the second minute by pulling back Rosicky and clashed knees with Song on 16 minutes. He struggled on for a while but he had to come off.

By then, Arsenal had gone close. Laurent Koscielny headed on a corner that Van Persie met at the back post. It would have gone in had Thomas Vermaelen blocked the ball on the line for City.

It was after then Balotelli began the train of events that would ensure the man who swam into the centre of the Boat Race on Saturday did not the end the Easter weekend as the biggest liability in British sport. On 26 minutes Balotelli took a heavy touch – often the preface for a moment of madness from temperamental players – and followed it by lunging in on Song.

The replays showed it to be a red card offence. Balotelli's studs came down hard on Song's leg. The incident could yet be the subject of retrospective action by the Football Association. Given that Balotelli's subsequent red card was his second of the season – excluding the retrospective ban for his stamp on Scott Parker – he will get a three game ban for that alone. There could be more on top.

With Balotelli at boiling point, there was a handball at the end of the half during a tussle with Sagna which other referees might not have been so charitable about. As for meaningful contributions to the game, Balotelli's only chance was a mis-hit from a cross from the right. He kicked the goal-post in frustration.

For all Balotelli's destructiveness, City managed at least to slow what looked a very promising start by the home side. The obvious question was why, with so much at stake for City, Balotelli stayed on for the second half. He had become such a villain with the Arsenal fans some of them were forgetting to boo Samir Nasri. Balotelli's contribution was marginal.

For a while after the break City took control of the game from Arsenal but with 20 minutes to go, the home side wrestled it back and laid siege for that last crucial part of the game.

Van Persie had a goal disallowed for offside – rightly, by World Cup linesman Darren Cann – when he was played in on goal by Song. Then Theo Walcott, Vermaelen and Yossi Benayoun all conspired to miss or have their shot blocked or saved from close range.

It was Pizarro who was easily dispossessed by Arteta before he struck a low shot just inside Hart's left post. On the touchline, Mancini raged at the Chilean midfielder. Behind him, his assistants Platt and Brian Kidd had their heads in their hands. When Balotelli was sent off minutes later, Mancini elected to stay in his seat.

Match details

Booked:

Arsenal: Koscielny, Santos.

City: Y Touré, Milner, Zabaleta, Balotelli.

Sent off: Balotelli 87 min.

Attendance 60,096.

Man of the match: Song.

News
A Brazilian wandering spider
news

World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Wonnacott dancing the pasadoble
TVStrictly Come Dancing The Result
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Russell Brand labelled 'left-wing commie scum' by Fox News
TV
News
<p>Jonathan Ross</p>
<p>Jonathan Ross (or Wossy, as he’s affectionately known) has been on television and radio for an extraordinarily long time, working on a seat in the pantheon of British presenters. Hosting Friday Night with Jonathan Ross for nine years, Ross has been in everything from the video game Fable to Phineas and Ferb. So it’s probably not so surprising that Ross studied at Southampton College of Art (since rebranded Southampton Solent), a university known nowadays for its media production courses.</p>
<p>However, after leaving Solent, Ross studied History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, now part of the UCL, a move that was somewhat out of keeping with the rest of his career. Ross was made a fellow of the school in 2006 in recognition of his services to broadcasting.</p>
TV

Rumours that the star wants to move on to pastures new

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
BBC's Antiques Roadshow uncovers a TIE fighter pilot helmet from the 1977 Star Wars film, valuing it at £50,000
TV

TV presenter Fiona Bruce seemed a bit startled by the find during the filming of Antiques Roadshow

News
people

Comedian says he 'never laughed as hard as I have writing with Rik'

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past