Mixed day for Mario at Hawthorns

Balotelli opened the scoring in the first half having combined with

City skipper Carlos Tevez, who was back in the team following his

two-match injury lay-off. The Italian striker then converted David

Silva’s cross soon after to give the visitors – defeated in their

last three matches – a two goal advantage. Balotelli’s afternoon

took a turn for the worse after the break, though, when he was

red-carded following a tangle with Youssouf Mulumbu, who was also

sent for an early bath after scything down Tevez late on. With

Arsenal being defeated by Newcastle, the result meant fourth-placed

City drew level on points with the Gunners in the Barclays Premier

League. It also meant the Blues overcame their hoodoo at The

Hawthorns, where they had been beaten on their last four visits in

all competitions – including a Carling Cup tie earlier in the

season. Given that and the recent struggles of Mancini’s side, the

Baggies had plenty of reasons to feel confident going into the

match, and it was evident in the way they got started. Chris Brunt

ran on to a neat through-ball from Marc-Antoine Fortune after only

a couple of minutes, with Kolo Toure making an interception which

almost resulted in an own goal. Moments later, Brunt curled in a

shot that Vincent Kompany managed to block before Nigel de Jong

picked up a yellow card for a blatant handball. At the other end

Balotelli, preferred as partner for Tevez in attack to the benched

Emmanuel Adebayor, went down in the box under Marek Cech’s

challenge, but referee Lee Probert waved play on. City were

starting to impose themselves and Tevez’s shot ricocheted off a

West Brom shirt to Pablo Zabaleta, who fired over the bar.

Balotelli tried to find Tevez with a back heel just before the

quarter hour mark and when he did claim possession, the skipper saw

his effort deflect wide. The link-up play was more effective in the

20th minute, though, as the visitors went ahead through Balotelli,

the 20-year-old notching his first Premier League goal by sliding

in to meet a cross from Tevez, who had latched on to Silva’s

incisive pass. Silva had a chance to double the lead soon after but

saw his attempt blocked by Scott Carson. West Brom looked to

respond quickly and Brunt delivered a useful cross which Fortune

was just unable to get on the end of. But having made the

breakthrough, Balotelli took only six minutes to strike again and

put City 2-0 up. Silva was involved once more, lofting a pass to

the former Inter Milan man who finished firmly despite the

attentions of Gabriel Tamas. The scoreline did not flatter City and

they almost increased their advantage when Tevez sent a free-kick

on to the roof of Carson’s net. Balotelli then caused uproar by

bundling over Nicky Shorey, although Probert did not deem the

incident worthy of a yellow card. The City striker might have been

presented with a chance to complete his hat-trick just before the

break but Yaya Toure’s cross was cleared away. City continued to

press as the second half got under way, with Jerome Boateng finding

himself in an unusually advanced position and just beaten to the

ball by Carson. Simon Cox almost pulled one back for Albion in

spectacular fashion, though, with a swerving effort that cracked

against the post. Having no doubt impressed watching Italy boss

Cesare Prandelli with his finishing prowess, Balotelli then

received his marching orders after being shown yellow and then red

cards in quick succession. The man advantage seemed to rouse the

Baggies, who panicked City into hitting the ball against their own

bar from a corner, before Joe Hart tipped Shorey’s free-kick over.

Having been given fresh attacking impetus by the introduction of

joint top scorer Peter Odemwingie – fit again after a knee injury –

and Giles Barnes and roared on by their fans, the home side kept up

the tempo, with Mulumbu and Brunt shooting too high. But it was

only in terms of players that they found themselves level with

eight minutes of normal time remaining as Mulumbu was dismissed for

a reckless lunge on Tevez – West Brom’s third red card of the week

after they were reduced to nine men at Blackpool on Monday. Albion

tried to remain on the front foot but could not find a way through

as City made off with a morale-boosting three points.