English Premier League
Saturday 3 March 2012, 15.00 KO
City: Hart, Zabaleta (K Toure 19), Kompany (c), Lescott, Clichy, Barry, Y Toure (Milner 82), Pizarro (Dzeko 62), A Johnson, Nasri, Balotelli
Unused: Pantilimon, Kolarov, Silva, Aguero
Goals: Clichy (23), Balotelli (72)
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Man of the Match: Yaya Toure
It was a frantic start at The Etihad Stadium, where City could have taken the lead several times in the opening few minutes. Zabaleta pulled the ball back to Nasri, but his effort was blocked en route to goal by a Bolton leg. Balotelli then struck the foot of the post, before Nasri’s follow-up was blocked on the line. Balotelli had a golden chance to sidefoot home, but he somehow put his effort wide after some good work by Adam Johnson on the right… And the clock had barely hit five minutes.
Miyaichi had Bolton’s first effort of the day, but he could only find Joe Hart’s gloves when he should have done a lot better, before Balotelli beat the offside trap and slipped at the vital moment, scooping his shot well over the bar. It didn’t take long, though, for the hosts to take the lead, but it wasn’t without a stroke of luck. Clichy shot from the edge of the box and it was destined for Bogdan’s hands, until a deflection beat the visiting keeper and the ball found the bottom corner.
But, with just over the half hour played, Bolton could have gotten back into the game. Reo-Coker did well to evade a challenge from Lescott, before whipping in a cross towards Ngog, but the ball was just too far ahead of the striker for him to connect. The same two visiting players combined minutes later to force a good save from Hart, as he needed to palm away a well hit shot.
The home side had their goalkeeper to thank that the scores weren’t level and City went in at the break in front, too. Miyaichi stole the ball from Kolo Toure, before curling an effort towards the far post from inside the area. But the England international got a fingertip on the ball and diverted it behind for a corner. And there were more heroics at the other end of the pitch from Bogdan, who kept it at 1-0 when Kolo Toure’s stabbed effort was blocked.
Balotelli should have doubled City’s lead with his first kick of the second half, as he was brilliantly played in by Nasri. But, as Bogdan closed him down, he didn’t make his mind up and left it too late to beat the Bolton shot-stopped, who blocked at the Italian’s feet. Barry then scooped an effort over the bar from the edge of the box, before Bolton began to get their foot on the ball, without really testing Hart in the home side’s goal.
With 25 minutes to play, it was almost two as Dzeko wound up to shoot on the edge of the box. But Darren Pratley got there first and tried to stab the ball away from the Bosnian forward; he did, but he beat his own goalkeeper with a lob and the ball crashed back into play off the crossbar. It didn’t matter, though, as two minutes later, Balotelli tapped home City’s second: Adam Johnson did briliantly to drive through two challenges in the area, before beating Bogdan with a backheel, leaving the Italian with the simple job of putting the ball in the net.
The goal sparked City into life: Johnson miss-hit a volley inside the area, Yaya Toure burst through and tried to set up Nasri, but the shot was blocked and Kolo Toure almost found Dzeko at the near post, but Wheater managed to squeeze the ball behind before the Bosnian could finish. All in all, it was a comfortable win for City, even if Bolton were occasionally dangerous on the break, and the home side were, once again, five points clear before United had played.