Balotelli's signs of growing up make City proud

Blackburn 0 Manchester City 4

Graham Chase
Saturday 22 October 2011 08:30

As Manchester City move closer to deciding Carlos Tevez's fate, who could have predicted that Mario Balotelli's behaviour and attitude would serve to make the Argentine look even worse? Tevez could meet with City officials as early as today as the club's investigation into the striker's apparent refusal to appear as a substitute in the 2-0 defeat at Bayern Munich last week moves closer to a conclusion.

Manager Roberto Mancini has insisted that Tevez will never play for City again and, with Sergio Aguero struggling with a groin problem sustained at Ewood Park, yet more responsibility could be coming the way of Balotelli.

Rarely has a figure so clearly represented the view that the game has never been less about the game. Most fans could reel off Balotelli's list of perceived "crimes" quicker than any highlights. Other than the two red cards, the crazy flick on the pre-season tour of the United States and the training ground bust-ups, some would say he has done more on Deansgate than on the pitch.

However, since the public haranguing by Mancini after he was dragged off following that bizarre attempt to score in Los Angeles, something appears to have changed for the Italian. That it has come after he has had to patiently wait for his chance is all the more surprising. After he came off the bench to prise Everton open with a breakthrough goal in the recent 2-0 win, Balotelli, who normally reacts to scoring like a man who has been told his favourite trainers have been accidentally thrown out, ran to hug Mancini.

The manager revealed Balotelli, who turned 21 in August, had not complained as he had been forced to effectively watch City's flying start to the campaign. The "couldn't make it up" tabloid tales appear to have dried up and there was more evidence of a different Balotelli as he made his first Premier League start of the season at Ewood Park, where he worked wide and deep and scored once again.

Adam Johnson opened the scoring with a fine curling effort after the break and Balotelli volleyed in a second before Samir Nasri added a third and Stefan Savic headed in his first goal in English football.

"Everyone knows what Mario's like but he's a goalscorer, he's a man who can get 20 goals a season if he plays as a central striker," Johnson, who made the most of his third start of the season with a similarly impressive performance, said. "He's a big lad, he's strong – he's just got all the attributes. It's just a case of putting it together week in week out for him now. You look at his stats and it just proves his goal-scoring ability. If you give him a chance, he'll put it away.

"Some people seem to think he's a bit fancy who scores a great goal now and again but he's more than that," Johnson added. "He'll score the tap-ins and scruffy goals as well. He can do everything a striker needs. A lot gets said and written about him, just like the rest of the club, but his training this season has been fantastic. As long as he keeps on going, nobody will have a problem."

Unfortunately it seems the same is not the case for Blackburn's manager Steve Kean. After facing a grim half-hour of abuse after City took a two-goal lead, Kean will take his squad to India today for a brief tour that was initially scheduled for July until bomb attacks forced its postponement.

Five defeats in seven matches have left Blackburn in the relegation zone and while thousands left long before the final whistle, hundreds staged a sit-in to call for the Scot to be sacked.

"I'm strong. I'm not a weak person. It's not nice when people are giving you stick but that's my job and I will take the stick on the chin," Kean said.

"Obviously we didn't think we would be in this position when we arranged it [the tour], but it is still a good opportunity to go out there and to train in a different environment. To be really close with all the lads left here, could be a really good thing because at times like this, you want to stick together."

Scorers: Man City Johnson 56, Balotelli 59, Nasri 73, Savic 87. Substitutes: Blackburn Formica 6 (Goodwillie, 61). Man City Nasri 9 (Aguero, 28), Savic (Johnson, 79), Dzeko (Balotelli, 88). Booked: Blackburn Givet.

Man City Zabaleta. Man of the match Nasri. Match rating 8/10.

Possession: Blackburn 36% Man City 64%. Attempts on target: Blackburn 4 Man City 12. Referee P Dowd (Staffordshire).

Attendance 24,760.

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