Mario Balotelli made a dream debut for Manchester City with the only goal of the game against FC Timisoara in the Europa League play-off first leg.

The former Inter Milan striker stepped off the bench to stun Timisoara and hand his side the advantage going into the return game next Thursday at Eastlands.

Balotelli, 20, proved to be a handful and has already repaid the first part of his reported £24million transfer fee. After a slow start on a humid night, England's biggest spenders were good value for the victory thanks to a positive second half performance.

The home fans screamed for a penalty after 14 minutes when Alexandru Curtean went to ground following a challenge from Pablo Zabaleta. German referee Florian Mayer ignored their pleas and had no hesitation in waving play on.

Carlos Tevez picked out Gareth Barry a minute before half-time with the midfielder lurking on the edge of the area. The England international was about to shoot only for Srgian Luchin to show good positioning and take the ball off his toes.

Back came Timisoara in the second half and Dan Alexa slipped a glorious through ball to Mircea Axente in the 51st minute. The striker whipped in a shot but Joe Hart got down quickly to make a comfortable save.

Roberto Mancini decided to switch things around and handed Balotelli his debut in the 57th minute when the 20-year-old replaced Barry.

City were beginning to put the pressure on and Balotelli found the side netting a minute later after a misplaced overhead kick by Tevez. Then Yaya Toure's thunderbolt came back off the post following a corner from Balotelli as Timisoara began to buckle.

City made the breakthrough with Balotelli showing a cool head to sweep the ball home from close range after being set up by Emmanuel Adebayor.

It was just the boost City were looking for with the second leg to come next Thursday at Eastlands and they are now favourites to progress to the group stages.

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Topics:
#Europa League
#Emmanuel Adebayor
#Internationals
#Joe Hart
#Football
#Manchester City
#Carlos Tevez
#Gareth Barry
#Premier League
#Pablo Zabaleta