Mancini nearly took Balotelli off after five minutes

Reuters

Sat, 31 Mar 20:50:00 2012

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini considered substituting Mario Balotelli after just five minutes of their Premier League match against Sunderland on Saturday in which the striker scored twice in a disappointing 3-3 draw for the title chasers.

Mancini, who said on Friday Balotelli could not be trusted, pondered taking off his fellow Italian before the forward's first half penalty and a late second helped City battle back to secure a point after trailing 3-1 with five minutes to play.

"I thought about taking him off after five minutes but in the end he scored two goals," said Mancini. "He didn't play well. In a game like this the strikers should be the difference - but not in the last two minutes, in the minutes before."

He added: "A player like Mario or (Edin) Dzeko should score two or three goals in a game like this. In this moment we need Carlos Tevez, a striker who can do different. I want this."

Tevez, playing his way back to full fitness after his long absence from the side following a row with Mancini, replaced David Silva after 58 minutes when City looked set to be heading for their first home league defeat of the season.

But while one Argentine striker returned, another was missing with Sergio Aguero sidelined with what Mancini described as a "stupid" foot injury, although he would not elaborate.

Mancini added he was only happy with the way his side played near the end of the match, telling reporters:

"I think a draw was a fair result, but we didn't do a good performance. I am only happy with the last 10 minutes, I am unhappy with the first 80 minutes because we did not play well."

POSITIVE SPIN

Despite dropping two points - the first time City have lost any points at home this season after 15 straight wins - Mancini said the title race was far from over.

Manchester United top the table with 73 points, followed by City on 71, but the leaders will stretch their advantage to five points if they beat Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park on Monday.

Mancini though, was putting an optimistic spin on things saying: "I think on Monday United will probably draw and we will be three points behind.

"It is hard but we have another seven games. We have done some mistakes in the last games but also United can arrive in a difficult moment. It is important we are there."

Sunderland took the lead with a goal from Sebastian Larsson after 31 minutes before Balotelli equalised in the 43rd with a penalty given for a foul on Dzeko.

Nicklas Bendtner headed Sunderland in front again just before halftime and Larsson made it 3-1 in the 55th minute.

Balotelli and Aleksander Kolarov then scored two late goals in the 85th and 86th minutes as City salvaged a point.

Sunderland responded well after losing 2-0 at home to Everton in an FA Cup quarter-final replay in midweek and manager Martin O'Neill said: "I think we got a little bit tired, maybe after the exertions and the disappointment of Tuesday night.

"We seemed to put that aside and performed excellently (at first) but it was a combination of both Manchester City fighting back and us getting tired."

Despite their failure to win Sunderland are ninth and remain in the hunt for a Europa League place for next season.

 

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