Belfast Telegraph

Balotelli helps City to victory

Second-half substitutes Mario Balotelli and James Milner combined to send Manchester City top of the Barclays Premier League for a couple of hours with a 2-0 victory over Everton before Manchester United took over at the summit following a 1-1 draw at Stoke to leave City second on goal difference.

The Toffeemen, who had won the last four meetings between the sides, proved tough to break down.

It was not until the arrival of Balotelli after an hour that City managed it, the striker's shot deflecting in off Phil Jagielka, before Milner finished Everton off in the final minute.

Phil Neville and Seamus Coleman tackled anything that moved to frustrate City in the early stages and there were only 10 minutes of the opening period remaining when Tim Howard parried away Sergio Aguero's goalbound curling shot.

Howard also denied Gareth Barry shortly afterwards as City began to turn the screw but Roberto Mancini's men were unable to maintain the pressure after the interval.

So with an hour gone, the Italian turned to Balotelli, ahead of deposed skipper Carlos Tevez, and the 21-year-old was on the scoresheet within eight minutes of his introduction.

Aguero was the architect, crabbing in from the right flank before rolling the ball into Balotelli's path as he found his own route into the penalty area blocked.

The Italian took aim, benefiting from a slight deflection off Jagielka as the ball nestled in the far corner.

Within a couple of minutes, David Silva had almost made it two, drilling a low shot against the base of Howard's left-hand post, the Everton keeper knowing he was getting nowhere near it.

The Toffeemen were firmly on the back foot and only an offside flag prevented them conceding a second after Silva had tapped home Balotelli's cross. Milner eventually secured the win, racing onto Silva's through ball before keeping his nerve to beat Howard in the final minute.

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