City brush aside Bolton
Gretar Steinsson's own goal and a second from Mario Balotelli moved Man City five points ahead at the top with a 2-0 win over Bolton.
Last Updated: 03/03/12 5:36pm
An own goal from Gretar Steinsson and second-half effort from Mario Balotelli moved Manchester City five points ahead at the top of the table with a 2-0 win over Bolton.
City dominated the early action at the Etihad Stadium, but wasteful finishing meant Roberto Mancini's men had to wait until the 23rd minute for Steinsson to divert Gael Clichy's shot into his own goal.
Bolton had their moments with only a brilliant save from England international Joe Hart at the other end keeping out Ryo Miyaichi's curling effort.
The longer the game went on the more nervous the home crowd became, however, those jitters evaporated in the 69th minute when Balotelli turned the ball home after good work by Adam Johnson.
City dominated the closing stages with Hart underworked in the second half, leaving the Premier League leaders to run out easy winners without the likes of Sergio Aguero and David Silva.
There were suggestions Balotelli might have been dropped following reports he had been on a night out in Liverpool in breach of a club curfew into the early hours of Friday.
Balotelli responded with a display of pace and vigour that might have yielded several goals before he finally struck.
Bolton had attempted to curb City by fielding a defensive side, bringing in an extra centre-back in Zat Knight and pushing Tim Ream forward in a 4-1-4-1 formation.
Yet they were in trouble right from the start as City went straight on the offensive.
Samir Nasri had a great chance with just a minute gone as Pablo Zabaleta pulled the ball back but the Frenchman did not shoot first time and David Wheater blocked.
Balotelli was also quickly in the action and went even closer as he struck the post from a tight angle from a Yaya Toure pass just a minute later.
Nasri pounced on the rebound but Adam Bogdan recovered to make a fine reaction save and Steinsson cleared.
Balotelli had another great chance soon after as Johnson combined with Zabaleta on the right and crossed low but the striker, who did well to reach the ball, turned and shot wide.
Balotelli might even have had a hat-trick by the 13th minute as he found himself onside and in the clear but blazed over.
City suffered a blow when Zabaleta was forced off injured in the 19th minute and Kolo Toure took his place at right-back.
The home side's opener eventually came from an unlikely source as a speculative long-range effort from Clichy took a deflection off Steinsson and beat Bogdan at the near post.
Balotelli then fired a free-kick over and missed with another effort before the magnificent Yaya Toure also saw an attempt drift wide as City maintained the momentum.
Bolton made a rare attack after half an hour as Nigel Reo-Coker got forward and whipped over a cross but David Ngog was unable to connect.
Ngog had a better opportunity moments later but Hart stood tall to save.
Miyaichi then pounced on a Kolo Toure error to aim a shot at the bottom corner but Hart produced a fine fingertip save.
Balotelli appealed for a penalty after tangling with Knight but referee Mark Clattenburg gave nothing.
Kolo Toure went close but shot straight at Bogdan, who then denied Balotelli with his feet just before the break.
Balotelli spurned another gilt-edged chance within a minute of the restart as Gareth Barry presented him with a one-on-one with Bogdan with a superb defence-splitting pass.
Bogdan was alert to the situation and spread himself to save as Balotelli set himself.
Barry had a sight of goal himself but shot well over while Balotelli had another appeal for a penalty rejected on the edge of the area.
Kolo Toure burst forward and exchanged passes with Nasri before shooting across goal.
City's tempo then dropped but they almost benefited from a second own goal as, in trying to dispossess substitute Dzeko, Darren Pratley managed to shoot against his own crossbar.
City finally doubled their lead and Balotelli at last - and deservedly - got on the scoresheet with 21 minutes remaining.
Johnson was the provider as he weaved through the defence to set up Balotelli from close range with a nifty backheel which squeezed between Bogdan and Wheater.
Dzeko chipped forward to give Johnson a shooting chance but the winger shot wide.
Yaya Toure instigated another attack with a driving run but Nasri saw his shot blocked.
James Milner then came on for Nasri as City wound down the clock towards another victory.
|Man City||Team Statistics||Bolton Wanderers|
|1||1st Half Goals||0|
|8||Shots on Target||5|
|12||Shots off Target||3|
|63.4||1st Half Poss.||36.6|
|67.1||2nd Half Poss.||32.9|