x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Balotelli inspires City win

Mario Balotelli scored a brace to help Manchester City claim a place in the next stage of the Europa League as Salzburg were beaten 3-0 at Eastlands.

Mario Balotelli scored a brace to help Manchester City claim a place in the next stage of the Europa League as Salzburg were beaten 3-0 at Eastlands.

And they emphasised their credentials in the process as the double was completed against the Austrian champions, meaning City qualified for the last 32 in February with a game to spare.

Former Inter Milan striker Balotelli, who arrived in the summer for £24million, scored either side of half-time with Adam Johnson also finding the target. It was almost like a training session for City given their possession and they should have been more than one goal to the good at the interval.

City should have taken the lead in the 15th minute when Patrick Vieira released Balotelli with superb through-ball. He raced on, only for goalkeeper Gerhard Tremmel to boot his effort clear.

Their pressure paid off in the 18th minute thanks to Balotelli, who swept home a fine volley from inside the area following a cross from Pablo Zabaleta.

City should have added a second a minute before half-time following another quick break. Johnson sent James Milner scampering away but he steered his effort the wrong side of the post.

City squandered another good chance of adding a second goal in the 58th minute after a sweeping move. Jerome Boateng and Wright-Phillips linked up but Balotelli's powerful effort ended up in the side-netting.

Balotelli scored his second goal from close range following a ball from Vieira after Johnson had won possession.

He almost completed his hat-trick a minute but again his effort found the side netting. Balotelli was given a standing ovation when he was replaced by Emmanuel Adebayor in the 71st minute.

And City made it 3-0 seven minutes later following a fine individual effort from Johnson. He skipped past three dispirited Salzburg players before finding the corner with his shot as City march on.