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Manchester win battle with north London

Balotelli once again took centre stage appearing to stamp on Scott Parker and then scoring the winner [GALLO/GETTY] 

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It was not a good day for north London sides with both Tottenham and Arsenal falling to Manchester's big guns.

At the Etihad Stadium, Mario Balotelli scored a late winner as Man City beat title rivals Tottenham Hotspur 3-2 on Sunday.

At the Emirates Stadium, Man United continued to chase City with a 2-1 victory over Arsenal which meant only three points separate the two Manchester sides.

The game in Manchester had been heading for a draw with City having squandered a two-goal lead after four goals in a mad nine-minute spell midway through the second half.

"It was an amazing game... the first 45 minutes you had two teams that were looking at each other, it was very tactical," City assistant coach David Platt told a news conference.
But he added manager Roberto Mancini was far from happy over the way they allowed Spurs to get a foothold in the game.

"We managed to get our noses in front at 2-0 and the game really should be put to bed. He (Mancini) is not happy... he's made that clear in no uncertain terms."

The hosts had gone ahead in the 56th minute through Samir Nasri and doubled their lead three minutes later courtesy of Joleon Lescott's bundled effort.

Spurs got themselves right back in it with a Jermain Defoe goal on 60 minutes after a blunder by City defender Stefan Savic followed five minutes later by an exquisite Gareth Bale strike.

The visitors were a whisker away from grabbing all the points in stoppage time when Defoe went agonisingly wide with
the goal gaping but City made the most of their chance at the other end when Ledley King brought down Balotelli.

The Italian substitute, who Spurs manager Harry Redknapp felt should not still have been on the pitch after appearing to stamp on Scott Parker earlier, converted calmly to send the packed stadium into raptures.

Redknapp launched a blistering attack on the player after the match.

"Yes, I do think that," said Redknapp when asked if Balotelli should have been sent off.

"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 don't like talking about people kicking players in the head, but when you see that, it's wrong. Whether he gets sent off or whatever, it's wrong and I don't like seeing people react like that to a challenge. Scott made a good block."

Gooners also unhappy

Antonio Valencia scored one goal and set up another to give Man United a 2-1 win at Arsenal that kept pressure on City at the top.

The Ecuador winger headed United into the lead in first-half injury time and, after Robin van Persie equalised in the 71st, darted into the area with nine minutes left to give Danny Welbeck the chance to smash the ball past goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.

Arsenal are five points behind fourth-place Chelsea and 18 behind City.

United players celebrate after Antonio
Valencia's (R) opener [GALLO/GETTY]

Fans jeered manager Arsene Wenger's decision to substitute young winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain with the score at 1-1 and many left well before the final whistle.

Wenger left fan favourite Thierry Henry out of the squad, and the on-loan New York Red Bulls striker watched from the stands while Ryan Giggs showed the difference a veteran can make to big games.

The 38-year-old former Wales international showed a glimpse of his old pace by twisting and turning up the inside right channel to win a free kick on the edge of the area.

That chance amounted to nothing but his next significant contribution was to float in the left-wing cross that Valencia headed in at the far post.

Van Persie made United pay for their missed chances with his 19th goal of the season, atoning for an uncharacteristic earlier miss with a first-time finish across goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard and in at the far post.

That roused the home fans but Valencia showed quick feet to cut into the area, exchange passes with substitute Park Ji-sung and lay the ball off to Welbeck.

The striker, who had few opportunities to impress until then, thrashed the ball into the net.

But United's victory came at a cost, with Phil Jones carried off the field with what appeared to be an ankle injury, Nani limping off in the second half and Wayne Rooney hobbling at the end following a heavy challenge from Alex Song.

Source: Agencies

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