x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Rash Balotelli puts tie on a plate for Kiev

Manchester City exit Europa League despite winning the home leg of their round-of-16 tie against Dynamo Kiev.

Manchester City’s Yaya Toure, 42, gestures as the referee prepares to produce a straight red card for Mario Balotelli.
Manchester City’s Yaya Toure, 42, gestures as the referee prepares to produce a straight red card for Mario Balotelli.

MANCHESTER // The class of 1970 retain remain unique in Manchester City history. Joe Mercer's Cup Winners' Cup winners are the sole City side to lift a European trophy and, much as Roberto Mancini's team aimed to join their illustrious forebears on their lonely perch, they won't

However appealing a trip to Dublin for May 18's final sounded, City will not be going there. An exit in the round of 16 to Dynamo Kiev amounted to an anti-climactic end to their Europa League odyssey.

A victory on the night was irrelevant in the final reckoning. City were condemned to defeat by their timid showing in Ukraine and the stupidity of their resident maverick. Their chances did not depart with Mario Balotelli when he was dismissed - Aleksandar Kolarov scored three minutes later - but thereafter theirs was an uphill battle.

Without Balotelli, his team-mates competed manfully. Theirs has been a gruelling programme - this was a 19th game of 2011 alone - but that was not visible from the incessant efforts of men like Carlos Tevez, Yaya Toure and David Silva. That they were in vain was cruel, but amid the recriminations and the regret, Balotelli owes them an apology.

Because of him, they had to play with 10 men for almost an hour. In a tetchy atmosphere, Balotelli planted his studs into the stomach and then the groin of the Dynamo left-back, Goran Popov, to earn a straight red card. His brief City career has proved explosive and it was a second dismissal to add to the nine cautions Balotelli has collected in 20 games.

It completed a tie to forget for the Italian. In imitable fashion, he had rendered the first leg memorable by asking to be substituted when complaining of a swollen face. It was, apparently, the consequence of an allergic reaction to the Kiev grass. He actually lasted less time on the Eastlands turf where both his radar and temper hindered City's efforts.

His was a cameo of misses, misfortune and a costly mistake. The most startling came when the most enticing of low crosses from Micah Richards reached Balotelli, who contrived to lift his shot over the bar from three yards. A header from Kolarov's corner was almost as high and, though he could not be faulted on the third occasion, crisply-struck, rising shot from Silva may have been bound for the top corner. Instead, it hit the ducking Balotelli on the back and veered wide.

No side Roberto Mancini has been involved in, either as player or manager, has ever overturned a two-goal first-leg deficit in Europe, yet his current charges could have cancelled out their deficit within the first four minutes. The initial incisions came from Richards. The raiding right-back latched on to Gareth Barry's pass to square the ball for Tevez, whose shot was deflected behind by Leandro Almeida. Then he supplied Balotelli, who missed.

However, the 10 men rallied. Silva rolled a low free kick to Kolarov, who drilled his shot under Oleksandr Shovkovskiy, transforming despair into delight.

It was an impressive response, but finding a second goal with a numerical disadvantage presented difficulties. With first Adam Johnson, then Edin Dzeko and finally James Milner summoned from the bench, Mancini's team became progressively more attacking. Yet Dynamo defended doggedly, with Leandro Almeida and Danilo Silva especially impressive in protecting Shovkovskiy's goal.

Inevitably, City had to cede control as proceedings became more frantic. The result, too, was more space for a previously cautious Dynamo side. Andri Yarmolenko fizzed a long-range shot wide while a diving Joe Hart tipped Ognjen Vukojevic's shot past the post and pushed Roman Eremenko's effort over the bar.

A goal would have cemented a quarter-final place, but they prevailed anyway. After an eye-catching 8-1 demolition of Besiktas in the previous round and given the Ukrainian pedigree in Europe - Shakhtar Donetsk were Uefa Cup winners in 2009 - Dynamo could prove the Europa League's dark horses.