Manchester City edged closer to a place in the group stages of the Europa League thanks to the Italian connection.
Balotelli makes immediate impact
Manchester City edged closer to a place in the group stages of the Europa League thanks to the Italian connection. Roberto Mancini marked his first match at this level for the club by steering them to a 1-0 victory against Timisoara in their play-off first-leg match in Romania. The winning goal came from Mancini's fellow countryman Mario Balotelli, the striker stepping off the bench to sweep the ball home from close range in the 72nd minute. It has been a whirlwind week for the 20-year-old whose registration was only received by Uefa on deadline day after he arrived last week from Inter Milan for a reported £24million (Dh137m). City stepped up the pace in the second half after a slow start when they failed to test the home defence. Mancini changed things around by improving his attacking options and they looked more of a threat. Yaya Toure thumped a shot against the post and Balotelli found the side-netting before stunning the industrious home side with an important away goal. Balotelli needed treatment at the end of the game but should be available to face Liverpool at home on Monday when the England midfielder James Milner is set to make his debut. Mancini said: "We do not think it is serious. It was probably just a kick, it is not a problem. Mario had a great debut and I am happy that he scored. He is a good player. "He needs to improve of course and get to know everybody. It was the first time he had played with the team." Balotelli, however, picked up a booking after losing his cool and was told by Mancini not to repeat his actions in England. The Italian warned: "We must work on this with him because it will be different in the Premier League than in Italy." Mancini was pleased with his team's overall display although he knows there will be tougher tests to come. Not only did his team chalk up a victory in front of a partisan Romanian crowd they kept a second successive clean sheet. Mancini said: "It was a difficult game because Timisoara are a good team and they played very well in the first half. "In the end, it is a good result for us. But they made it difficult for us by getting so many players behind the ball. "All the players played well, especially in the second half and we moved the ball quickly. When (Adam) Johnson came on, he also did well. "I think we deserved to score another goal because we had three or four good chances." But Mancini stressed that the tie was not over and there was still work to be done at Eastlands. He added: "Football is strange. When you think you can win easy, you must have maximum concentration."
* PA Sport