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Premier League

  • March 3, 2012
  • • 15:00
  • • Etihad Stadium, Manchester
  • Referee: M. Clattenburg
  • • Attendance: 47219
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Manchester City 2-0 Bolton Wanderers: Balotelli strike seals victory to send hosts five points clear at top

Manchester City 2-0 Bolton Wanderers: Balotelli strike seals victory to send hosts five points clear at top

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Roberto Mancini's men easily dispatched Owen Coyle's struggling side at the Etihad Stadium to keep up their impressive home record and assert their position at the top

Manchester City strengthened their lead at the Premier League summit to five points with a dominant 2-0 victory over struggling Bolton Wanderers at the Etihad Stadium.

Goals from Gael Clichy and Mario Balotelli either side of the break proved the difference in a game that could easily have easily ended in a rout for Owen Coyle’s men as the hosts spurned a plethora of chances – over 20 of them overall.

The victory meant Roberto Mancini’s men extended their home winning run to an impressive 19 games, equalling the record set by rivals and fellow title challenges Manchester United last October.

For Bolton, a fourth successive loss for the third time this season continued a miserable run that seen them remain one place above rock-bottom of the table courtesy of goal difference.

Balotelli returned to spearhead City’s attack in a lone-striker role, as top-scorer Sergio Aguero dropped to the bench.

For the visitors, Mark Davies and Gretar Steinnson returned from respective injuries to start alongside Japanese midfielder Ryo Miyaichi.

City started on fire and Balotelli rattled the post with only two minutes on the clock after running onto Yaya Toure’s defence splitting through-ball.

Moments later, the Italian forward spurned another gilt-edged chance when he fired wide from Adam Johnson’s cut-back after the ball had got caught under his feet with the goal at his mercy.

The host’s continued to expose the flaws in their visitors’ brittle defence and the lively Balotelli failed to break the deadlock once again when he eventually skied over after failing to make the most of a hopeful long ball that set him free in acres of space.

City’s pressure finally paid off when Clichy’s long-range effort took a fortuitous deflection off the head of Gretar Steinsson to beat an unfortunate Adam Bogdan at his near post.

After Johnson and Balotelli had wasted further opportunities to increase the lead, Bolton briefly responded, conjuring their first noteworthy chance just after the half hour mark when David N’Gog forced Joe Hart into a routine save, before Miyachi came even closer when his sweeping right foot effort drew a magnificent outstretched save from the England stopper.

Bogdan kept Bolton in the game on the stroke of half-time when he saved well from Balotelli, as City took a slender lead into the interval.

The one-way traffic continued after the break as Bogdan brilliantly denied Balotelli yet again as Gareth Barry split the Bolton defence for the umpteenth time.

Yaya Toure powered narrowly wide from outside the box on the hour mark soon after as tried in vain to find the all-decisive second goal.

Darren Pratley nearly scored a spectacular own goal moments later when he scooped the ball onto the crossbar with Bogdan beaten following a challenge with Edin Dzeko on the edge of the box as Bolton failed to stop wave after wave of City blue.

The second goal did eventually arrive with an overriding sense of inevitability in the 70th minute when Johnson skipped through a number of challenges to set up Balotelli to tap home.

City easily saw the game out from there and will travel to Lisbon on Thursday for their Europa League clash with Sporting as league leaders, with the gauntlet set for Manchester United ahead of their crucial clash with Tottenham on Sunday.

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