Updated: Saturday, 7th December 2019 @ 1:02pm

Sitting on bench keeps Mario fresh: Balotelli will shine as Sergio Aguero tires for Manchester City, claims boss

Sitting on bench keeps Mario fresh: Balotelli will shine as Sergio Aguero tires for Manchester City, claims boss

By Dean Wilkins

A benchwarming role may now be working in Mario Balotelli’s favour as Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini praised the youngster’s freshness in last night’s win.

The 22-year-old Italian opened the scoring against Wigan Athletic and notched his first goal of the season after latching onto another mistake by Ali Al-Habsi.

Last season’s top scorer Sergio Aguero was pulled off as Mancini switched tactics just seconds before Balotelli’s goal, and the manager quickly praised the youngster’s ability in front of goal.

"I am very happy for him because he scored his first goal this year. He scored an important goal,” he said.

"I hope he can improve in the next week and the next game."

Before bringing the Argentine striker off, Mancini had toyed with the option of ending Balotelli’s night – but his decision will go down as another crafty move from the mastermind tactician.

Mancini added: "We thought Mario or Sergio but Mario in this moment is maybe more fresh than Sergio.

"Sergio has played all the games and for this reason we changed. Also Mario moved well.

"He didn't play like he knows but in this position Mario was better in this moment."

England winger James Milner doubled City’s lead just minutes after Balotelli’s 69th strike – but was subbed off after a recurrence of his hamstring problem.

The Premier League champions maintained their chase on rivals Manchester United as stretched their legs over Chelsea again as Rafa Benitez’s men were held to a second straight goalless draw.

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