Game recap: City 1 - 0 Dynamo Kiev

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 17: Referee Vladimir Sajn sends off Mario Balotelli of Manchester Cityduring the UEFA Europa League round of 16 second leg match between Manchester City and Dynamo Kiev at City of Manchester Stadium on March 17, 2011 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Perhaps it was inevitable that it would end this way; a frustrating finish to a competition that despite being maligned by some, when a crowd of sixteen teams suddenly became eight, looked after all one that could very much be won.

It was not to be however and now leaves the side with a dual aim of FA Cup silverware and Champions League qualification to mark the season down as a success.

There were shades of Hamburg from two seasons ago, albeit without the goals and frayed nerves but a definite sense of what could (and should?) have been with the headlines inevitably dominated by Mario Balotelli.

It was an eventful night for the Italian: the incident with a tricky bib, the sending off and the post-game incident with fans - and not to mention missing a gilt-edged opportunity to get the side off to the kind of start they had wished for when he put over from a couple of yards out just minutes in.

There has been a good and well-constructed debate on the game thread over the merits of the sending off, but whilst not a malicious act, to have left his foot in (with the hint of a follow through) was both dangerous and reckless - not only to the opposition player but ultimately his own side.

For whilst after Balotelli's departure there wasn't the feeling that the side were a man down in terms of endeavour, application and willingness to haul themselves back into a game they had all but lost the week before, in the final third the absence of Balotelli was felt with the threat being from range and from runners from midfield as opposed to a supplementary support for Carlos Tevez.

After a good spell of pressure in the first-half it ended up being just minutes after Balotelli's red that City went ahead, when Aleksandar Kolarov struck through a crowd to set the second-half up perfectly. City had led 1-0 at the half on twelve occasions prior last night, going on to win by two or more goals on seven of these occasions and after the break, City were again the more impressive of the sides. The final minutes however were noticeable for City running out of steam and as the clock ticked down, hopes of forcing extra-time were at best remote.

Dynamo Kiev were clever opponents, make no mistake. Displaying plenty of 'nous' they were happy to frustrate both City and the crowd at every opportunity. The lack of control from the referee certainly allowed this - and Mancini was unhappy with this post-match - but it was the hole that City put themselves into in Kiev that was the result of their exit, not the actions of Kiev, the referee or even Balotelli.

The side (Balotelli excepted) all emerged with a deal of credit from the performance on Thursday, but hard luck story aside is the concern that when it has counted this season, where faced with a statement or step-up game by and large the side hasn't (for a variety of reasons) hasn’t been able to achieve it. The Europa League has now gone. With the dual target of FA Cup and Premier League success coming thick and fast the side has to change this.

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