FC Timisoara 0 – 1 Man City

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Manchester City’s new striker Mario Balotelli came off the bench to score on his debut as they won their Europa League play-off first leg in Timisoara.

Balotelli came on with City struggling against the little-known Romanians and with 18 minutes left he coolly fired in after good work from Emmanuel Adebayor.

Timisoara had started well and had two penalty appeals turned down as City laboured for long periods.

But soon after Yaya Toure hit the post, Balotelli grabbed the decisive goal.

The 20-year-old’s dream start to his City career makes his new club very strong favourites going into the second leg at Eastlands next Thursday.

City manager Roberto Mancini had asked for time for his new signings to gel prior to the game and, showing only three changes from the 0-0 draw at Spurs on Saturday, it took them a while to find their feet in the Dan Paltinisanu Stadium.

Timisoara, sixth in the Romanian league, began in enterprising fashion and the majority of the 20,000-strong crowd were left dismayed when referee Florian Meyer turned down their appeals for a spot-kick after Pablo Zabaleta appeared to catch Cosmin Contra in the City box.

City were struggling to string two passes together and they survived another penalty shout when the ball struck Vincent Kompany’s arm before Contra’s follow-up shot dribbled into the arms of Joe Hart.

It was not so much City weathering a Timisoara storm as the visitors completely failing to get their act together, but that did not last and around the half-hour mark Mancini’s multi-million pound side started to show glimpses of their class.

Carlos Tevez’s control was a touch too heavy to collect Gareth Barry’s cross or he would have been in on goal, while moments after the break David Silva had a shot blocked after a good pass from Tevez.

City had raised the tempo to a level Timisoara were struggling to cope with and the arrival of former Inter Milan striker Balotelli after 57 minutes proved the catalyst for them to go on and win the game.

He was immediately in the action when he shot over from 20 yards, before Balotelli fired into the side-netting after Timisoara failed to clear a corner.

Moments after Yaya Toure’s right-foot thunderbolt slammed back off the post Balotelli gave City the goal their play had warranted, sweeping in from close range after Adebayor had created the chance.

The visitors narrowly failed to increase their lead in the closing stages as Yaya Toure’s shot forced a good save from Costel Pantilimon and then the irrepressible Balotelli shot over.

The Italian’s captivating cameo ended when he picked up a knock in injury time. After such a sizzling start in a City shirt, Mancini will hope his new star is available for the visit of Liverpool to Eastlands in the Premier League on Monday.

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