Manchester City 2-0 Bolton: Daily Mirror match report
Published 21:36 04/03/12 By David McDonnell
Roberto Mancini is wearily accustomed to the script at his post-match interview.
“Carlos Tevez, Mario Balotelli, it’s incredible that we can’t stay without a problem for two days!” said the Manchester City boss.
His team had taken another step towards a first Premier League title but their on-field efforts were again overshadowed by off-field exploits.
Mancini was smiling but his demeanour betrayed his anger with Balotelli for the striker’s latest transgression, visiting a Liverpool strip club 36 hours before the game.
Balotelli’s breaking of a club curfew, for which he will be fined two weeks’ wages, was particularly galling for Mancini, coming only hours after the City boss had praised his new-found maturity. “I said that but I also said that with Mario anything can happen,” said Mancini, who only learned of Balotelli’s late night when he arrived at the Etihad Stadium to face Bolton.
“This is not so much for me and the squad, it’s for him. When you are a professional player, you should have a good private life. You can’t stay out until after 2am. But Mario is like this.
“We can do nothing if there doesn’t come a moment when he understands. Now he is young but when you are 25 or 26 it will be different if you don’t have a good private life.”
Balotelli has already missed eight games this season through suspension and was left out of Italy’s squad because coach Cesare Prandelli said he was a liability.
Mancini has shown Balotelli nothing but support. But he admitted feeling let down by Balotelli, given he and his coaches had based all their plans this week around him playing as a lone striker against Bolton.
“Mario doesn’t think about the game in two days’ time,” said Mancini. “He doesn’t think we’ve had players away playing for their national teams and that all week we prepared this game for him to play as striker because he would be freshest.
“Sometimes, yes [I feel let down]. But I also understand, because he’s only 21. But after 100 times he should understand what happens around him.
“I am very kind with him and the players, but all the players have to behave well, for them and for the squad. ”
Balotelli missed seven chances, finally finding the net from close range for City’s second.
Only he knows whether his late night left him short of sharpness, but Mancini suggested “maybe if he’d had more sleep he’d have scored more goals”.
As it was, Gael Clichy’s deflected first-half strike – given as a Gretar Steinsson own goal – and Balotelli’s strike kept City in pole position in the title race ahead of Manchester United.
Everything points to the April 30 showdown between the two clubs as the decider, but Mancini says much can happen.
“There are two months left and it will be very hard,” he said. If they are to end their 44-year wait for the title, City will need every player to perform. There can be no passengers, something Balotelli would do well to realise.