Mario Balotelli struck a dramatic stoppage-time penalty as Manchester City overcame a brave Tottenham Hotspur fightback to win 3-2 and maintain their lead at the top of the Premier League on Sunday.
Substitute Balotelli blasted in his spot-kick deep into stoppage-time after the Italian striker had been bundled over by Ledley King for a clear-cut penalty, but the City forward’s winner was tinged with controversy after television replays suggested he was lucky not to be sent off in an earlier tangle with Scott Parker, where he appeared to kick out at the Spurs midfielder’s head.
The finale capped a remarkable game which had seen Spurs recover from 2-0 down to level at 2-2 with goals from Jermain Defoe and Gareth Bale, after City had taken the lead through Samir Nasri and Joleon Lescott.
The victory helped preserve City’s three-point lead at the top of the table after second-placed Manchester United kept up the pressure with a hard-fought 2-1 win at Arsenal.
United striker Danny Welbeck struck the winner nine minutes from time after Arsenal captain Robin van Persie had canceled out Antonio Valencia’s first-half opener for the champions.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was subjected to angry chants from the home fans toward the end of the game for his controversial substitution of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain shortly after the young winger set up van Persie’s equalizer.
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was delighted at his team’s attacking display.
“We’ve had to play well today and for most of the game we did play well,” Ferguson said. “Winning after City had won their game, that was the important thing, but I think we’ve done it in the right way — we were adventurous, positive and had belief in ourselves.”
Wenger admitted his decision to replace Oxlade-Chamberlain with Andrey Arshavin was costly, especially as the Russian allowed Valencia to set up the United winner.
“When it was 1-1 it looked like we would win, but in the end one tactical mistake lost us the game,” Wenger said. “I do not want to dwell too much on that now, but one second of inattention can cost you.”
The story from a pulsating day of Premier League action remained at Eastlands, where Spurs boss Harry Redknapp was fuming at the failure of referee Howard Webb to send off City match-winner Balotelli.
“Yes, I do think that,” Redknapp said when asked if Balotelli should have been sent off. “It’s not the first time he’s done that is it? I’m sure it won’t be the last.I’m the last person to talk about getting people sent off, but it’s blatantly obvious if you see that, he reacts like that at times to challenges. I’m surprised the linesman hasn’t seen it. The first [stamp] could be an accident, but the second one? He’s back-heeled him straight in the head.”
Assistant City manager David Platt declined to comment on Balotelli’s clash with Parker.
“I haven’t seen the incident with Balotelli so I can’t comment on it until I see it,” Platt said. “If we continue to amass points and carry on winning we’ll be tough to beat, but it doesn’t change anything in terms of the title race.”
After a scrappy first half where neither side managed to get a grip on the game, the contest exploded into life shortly after the restart with four goals inside nine minutes.
City drew first blood with a wonderfully worked opener on 56 minutes, David Silva releasing Nasri with a perfectly weighted through ball which took the French international beyond the Spurs defense. The former Arsenal star ghosted away from Kyle Walker and Younes Kaboul, then unleashed an unstoppable first-time shot that flew past goalkeeper Brad Friedel.