Mario Balotelli's injury-time penalty gave Premier League leaders Manchester City a vital victory after Tottenham's stirring comeback looked set to earn them a point at Etihad Stadium.
City set the platform for a win early in the second half with two quick goals from Samir Nasri and Joleon Lescott - but Spurs delivered a devastating response as an opportunist goal from Jermain Defoe and a magnificent strike from Gareth Bale drew them level in a burst of four goals in nine minutes.
Balotelli emerged from the bench and into the chaos that seems to be his constant companion - picking up a booking for a foul on Benoit Assou-Ekotto then escaping punishment after appearing to stamp on Scott Parker, an incident which went undetected by referee Howard Webb.
Defoe was then inches away from putting Spurs back in front in stoppage time before Italian Balotelli was inevitably the central figure in the final twist that ensured Roberto Mancini's side maintained the gap ahead of their pursuers at the top of the table.
Spurs' backroom staff were enraged by Balotelli's clash with Parker and their burning sense of injustice would have been made even more acute when he calmly strode forward to score from the spot with only seconds remaining after he had been hauled down by Ledley King.
The visitors clearly felt he should not even have been on the pitch, adding to their frustration after they had demonstrated considerable character and resilience to fight their way back into the game.
PHIL MCNULTY'S BLOG
“Balotelli might win Man City the title but there's a danger his unpredictability could potentially lose it for them”
City boss Mancini will have had mixed emotions - delight at a crucial three points but also anxiety at the manner in which his side allowed Spurs back into the game.
Defoe, as expected, was Redknapp's selection in attack ahead of Emmanuel Adebayor, who was unable to figure against City, his parent club, during his season-long loan period.
In a first half that was fiercely contested, the only striker who got the chance to shine was City's Sergio Aguero as Spurs outnumbered City in midfield and contained the league leaders in relative comfort.
BAD BOY BALOTELLI?
- Only Grant Holt has conceded more fouls per minute than Mario Balotelli in the Premier League
The Argentine saw his goalbound shot inadvertently blocked by Edin Dzeko, then demonstrated great strength and awareness to hold off Younes Kaboul and find David Silva, who dragged his shot just wide.
Aguero was frustrated by Spurs goalkeeper Brad Friedel after Richards forced his way into area - but there was still no indication of the torrent of goals that were to hit the Etihad after the break.
The first came after 56 minutes when Silva, with trademark creation, threaded a pass through for Nasri to thump a finish past Friedel. And when Lescott bundled home Dzeko's flick from a Nasri corner three minutes later, City could see daylight.
Not for long, however, as Spurs were back in business within seconds as the hour approached. Stefan Savic failed miserably in his attempt to deal with a clearance, heading straight to Defoe, who accepted the gift with relish as he rounded City keeper Joe Hart to score.
City's fans had gone from elation to anxiety, but Dzeko should have eased their concerns when he was played in by Silva. The Bosnian never looked convincing as he lashed his effort way over the top.
Bale showed no such uncertainty when he put Spurs level in spectacular style after 65 minutes. He took Aaron Lennon's pass and clipped a finish that possessed pace, power and precision high into the top corner beyond Hart, who had no chance.
City had introduced Balotelli for Dzeko, but his first meaningful contribution was to pick up a yellow card from referee Webb for a foul on Assou-Ekotto.
The coming together with Parker that provided a major talking point followed soon after, before a thrilling second half received the climax it deserved.
Defoe could not stretch far enough to turn Bale's cross into an open goal - leaving the stage clear for the turbulent Balotelli to write another chapter into his eventful Manchester City story.
- 25 Hart
- 02 Richards
- 06 Lescott
- 15 Savic
- 22 Clichy Booked
- 07 Milner
- 18 Barry
- 19 Nasri
- 21 Silva
- 10 Dzeko (Balotelli - 65' Booked )
- 16 Aguero
- 30 Pantilimon
- 05 Zabaleta
- 13 Kolarov
- 24 Onuoha
- 11 Johnson
- 34 De Jong
- 45 Balotelli
- 24 Friedel
- 03 Bale
- 04 Kaboul
- 26 King
- 28 Walker
- 32 Assou-Ekotto
- 07 Lennon (Pienaar - 88' )
- 08 Parker Booked
- 11 Van der Vaart (Livermore - 67' )
- 14 Modric
- 18 Defoe
- 23 Cudicini
- 19 Bassong
- 20 Dawson
- 21 Kranjcar
- 29 Livermore
- 40 Pienaar
- 09 Pavlyuchenko
Live Text Commentary
Full Time The final whistle goes and the game is over.90:00 +4:40 Goal scored
Goal! - Mario Balotelli - Man City 3 - 2 Tottenham Penalty taken right-footed by Mario Balotelli and scored. Man City 3-2 Tottenham.90:00 +3:38
Mario Balotelli fouled by Ledley King, the ref awards a Penalty.90:00 +0:41
The ball is sent over by Gareth Bale, Shot from close range by Jermain Defoe misses to the right of the target.89:59
The official flags Benoit Assou-Ekotto offside. Indirect free kick taken by Joe Hart.87:31 Substitution
Substitution (Tottenham) makes a substitution, with Steven Pienaar coming on for Aaron Lennon.86:12
Mario Balotelli takes a shot. Ledley King gets a block in.82:39
Mario Balotelli takes a shot. Scott Parker gets a block in.81:34
Gareth Barry gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Scott Parker. Younes Kaboul takes the direct free kick.78:21
Direct free kick taken by Brad Friedel.78:21 Booking
Booking Mario Balotelli receives a yellow card for unsporting behaviour.78:14
Unfair challenge on Benoit Assou-Ekotto by Mario Balotelli results in a free kick.75:44
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Mario Balotelli by Kyle Walker. Samir Nasri produces a cross, Headed effort from deep inside the area by Mario Balotelli misses to the left of the goal.74:01
Aaron Lennon takes a shot. Save by Joe Hart.73:53
Gareth Bale takes the chance to get an effort at goal. Joleon Lescott gets a block in.73:02
A cross is delivered by Gareth Bale, clearance by Gael Clichy. Corner from the right by-line taken by Luka Modric, clearance by Micah Richards.71:48
Effort on goal by Kyle Walker from long range goes over the crossbar.71:27
James Milner is penalised for handball and concedes a free kick. Scott Parker restarts play with the free kick.70:46
Luka Modric has an effort at goal from outside the penalty box missing to the wide right of the target.70:26
Centre by Luka Modric, blocked by James Milner.
Corner taken short by Luka Modric.68:44
Inswinging corner taken from the right by-line by David Silva, save by Brad Friedel.67:53
David Silva produces a cross, Ledley King manages to make a clearance. Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Samir Nasri played to the near post, Gareth Bale manages to make a clearance.66:51
Corner from the left by-line taken by Samir Nasri, clearance made by Younes Kaboul.66:51 Substitution
Substitution (Tottenham) makes a substitution, with Jake Livermore coming on for Rafael Van der Vaart.66:07
Rafael Van der Vaart challenges Mario Balotelli unfairly and gives away a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Gareth Barry.64:07 Substitution
Substitution Mario Balotelli is brought on as a substitute for Edin Dzeko.64:07
Assist on the goal came from Aaron Lennon.64:07 Goal scored
Goal! - Gareth Bale - Man City 2 - 2 Tottenham Gareth Bale gets on the score sheet with a fantastic goal from outside the box to the top right corner of the goal. Man City 2-2 Tottenham.63:12
Samir Nasri has an effort at goal. Blocked by Scott Parker. Corner taken by Samir Nasri from the right by-line, Benoit Assou-Ekotto manages to make a clearance.61:36
Jermain Defoe is caught offside. Stefan Savic takes the free kick.60:59
Shot from deep inside the area by Edin Dzeko clears the crossbar.59:58
The assist for the goal came from Younes Kaboul.59:58 Goal scored
Goal! - Jermain Defoe - Man City 2 - 1 Tottenham Jermain Defoe finds the net with a goal from the edge of the area to the bottom left corner of the goal. Man City 2-1 Tottenham.58:16
Edin Dzeko provided the assist for the goal.58:16 Goal scored
Goal! - Joleon Lescott - Man City 2 - 0 Tottenham Joleon Lescott gets on the score sheet with a goal from close in to the bottom right corner of the goal. Man City 2-0 Tottenham.57:48
The ball is swung over by David Silva, clearance made by Younes Kaboul. Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Samir Nasri from the left by-line.55:02
Assist on the goal came from David Silva.55:02 Goal scored
Goal! - Samir Nasri - Man City 1 - 0 Tottenham Samir Nasri finds the back of the net with a goal from the edge of the penalty area to the top left corner of the goal. Man City 1-0 Tottenham.53:47
Foul by Rafael Van der Vaart on Samir Nasri, free kick awarded. Samir Nasri takes the direct free kick.53:22
Gareth Bale takes a shot. Stefan Savic gets a block in.52:47
A cross is delivered by Gareth Bale, blocked by Joleon Lescott. Corner taken short by Rafael Van der Vaart.51:57
Free kick crossed left-footed by David Silva from right wing, Younes Kaboul makes a clearance.51:57 Booking
Booking Booking for Scott Parker.51:46
Scott Parker concedes a free kick for a foul on Sergio Aguero.51:32
The ball is crossed by Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Micah Richards manages to make a clearance.50:51
The ball is swung over by Gael Clichy.49:58
Jermain Defoe concedes a free kick for a foul on Stefan Savic. Direct free kick taken by Stefan Savic.49:11
Rafael Van der Vaart produces a left-footed shot from long range which goes wide right of the goal.48:31
The ball is delivered by Samir Nasri, Benoit Assou-Ekotto gets a block in. Outswinging corner taken from the right by-line by Samir Nasri, clearance made by Rafael Van der Vaart.47:40
Inswinging corner taken left-footed by David Silva from the right by-line to the near post, save made by Brad Friedel.47:34
Edin Dzeko produces a cross, save made by Brad Friedel.45:01
The second half begins.45:00 +0:11 Half time
Half Time The first half comes to an end.42:07
Shot from just outside the area by Edin Dzeko misses to the left of the target.39:19
Micah Richards concedes a free kick for a foul on Benoit Assou-Ekotto. Brad Friedel takes the direct free kick.38:29
Rafael Van der Vaart gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Gareth Barry. Joleon Lescott takes the free kick.35:19
Younes Kaboul produces a right-footed shot from just outside the penalty area that goes harmlessly over the target.34:26
Foul by Joleon Lescott on Gareth Bale, free kick awarded. Rafael Van der Vaart restarts play with the free kick.32:45
Shot from 20 yards by Rafael Van der Vaart. Joleon Lescott gets a block in.32:36
Rafael Van der Vaart has a drilled shot. Blocked by Stefan Savic.32:14
Luka Modric fouled by James Milner, the ref awards a free kick. Aaron Lennon takes the free kick.30:10
Corner taken left-footed by David Silva from the right by-line, Gareth Bale manages to make a clearance.29:57
Sergio Aguero has an effort at goal from 12 yards. Brad Friedel makes a brilliant save.26:16
Effort from deep inside the area by Sergio Aguero misses to the left of the target.25:58
Scott Parker challenges Edin Dzeko unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick taken by David Silva.25:02
David Silva has an effort at goal from deep inside the area missing to the right of the goal.24:44
Foul by Rafael Van der Vaart on Edin Dzeko, free kick awarded. Free kick taken by Gareth Barry.23:47
Unfair challenge on Scott Parker by Edin Dzeko results in a free kick. Ledley King takes the free kick.23:11
Unfair challenge on Gael Clichy by Aaron Lennon results in a free kick. Joe Hart restarts play with the free kick.22:17
Edin Dzeko is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Free kick taken by Brad Friedel.19:42
Short corner taken by Rafael Van der Vaart.17:32
Shot from close range by Sergio Aguero misses to the left of the goal.12:15
Drilled right-footed shot by Sergio Aguero. Blocked by Ledley King. Inswinging corner taken from the left by-line by Samir Nasri, Luka Modric manages to make a clearance.9:39 Booking
Booking Gael Clichy is shown a yellow card.6:28
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Kyle Walker by Gael Clichy. Rafael Van der Vaart takes the direct free kick.0:00
The game kicks-off.
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