Mario Balotelli was accused of kicking Scott Parker in the head by Harry Redknapp, who said he should not have been on the pitch to convert the penalty that gave Manchester City a late victory over Tottenham Hotspur.
City established an eight-point lead over third-placed Spurs courtesy of a remarkable finale at the Etihad Stadium, where Jermain Defoe missed a glorious chance to give Redknapp's team the lead in stoppage time and Ledley King conceded the match-winning penalty with a foul on Balotelli moments later. The Italian striker duly converted the spot‑kick to maintain City's 100% home record in the Premier League this season but his performance was marred by allegations that he purposely injured Parker seven minutes from time.
Balotelli, booked within 13 minutes of his introduction as a second‑half substitute for a foul on Benoît Assou-Ekotto, caught Parker with what appeared a backheeled stamp and could face retrospective action from the Football Association after the referee, Howard Webb, took no action. Redknapp insisted Balotelli's kick was deliberate and in character for a player who has attracted controversy throughout his brief career.
Asked whether the City striker should have been sent off, the Spurs manager said: "Yes, I do think that. It's not the first time he's done that, is it? I'm sure it won't be the last. 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. Scott has a lovely cut on his head. I'm not sure if he's had stitches, but that's how it goes sometimes.
"I'm surprised he [the linesman] hasn't seen it. The first [stamp] could be an accident, but the second one? He's backheeled him straight in the head. 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."
Having been dismissed once this season, for two bookable offences at Liverpool, Balotelli could be handed a four-match suspension if Webb confirms he missed the incident and the FA finds the striker guilty of violent conduct. "I'm sure they will look at it," said Redknapp, who will appear at Southwark crown court alongside the former Portsmouth chairman Milan Mandaric on Monday on charges of tax evasion, which they deny. "They must do, mustn't they? I don't see any reason, what reason did he have to kick Scott in the head with his studs while he is lying on the floor? It's not a nice thing to do and it has no place in football."
Redknapp reacted incredulously when it was put to him that Balotelli's reputation is based on eccentricity and not malice. "A lovable eccentric? What do you think?" he said. "He's nothing to do with me and it's up to their manager. I've got my own opinions, but I don't like seeing people kick people in the head. It's not something I understand. How you can backheel somebody in the head when they are lying on the floor? I don't understand it. He's not my problem, let somebody else have the problem."
Roberto Mancini, the City manager, did not appear at the post-match press conference having lost his voice and his assistant, David Platt, claimed not to have spotted the incident. "I haven't seen any replays and so I can't really comment," he said. "I never saw anything live and there was nothing from the players live either. What we are aware of from the last month is that different TV angles can show different things."
Platt admitted he thought City were "dead and buried" when Defoe and Gareth Bale, whose goals had brought Spurs back from two goals down against the league leaders, combined in injury time only for the striker to miss an open goal at full stretch. He said Mancini was livid with how City had allowed Spurs to recover after conceding two goals in four minutes to Samir Nasri and Joleon Lescott.
"We should have put the game to bed at 2-0," said Platt. "That is what the manager said afterwards. His voice was low but what he said was profound. He is not happy at the gift we gave them for the first goal and which let them back in. It was a lapse in concentration, we gifted it to them, and the manager has made that clear to the players in no uncertain terms. It was a pulsating second 45 minutes."
Both Platt and Redknapp said Tottenham remain in contention for the title despite the result. The Spurs manager said: "It's going to be hard to win the title. All I've ever said is that we have got a chance. I think you saw today that we are genuine contenders. There's not much between the teams.
"We are not a million miles behind City or anyone else. We are a good team in our own right. That's all I ever said. It's difficult now, there are lots of points between, but we just have to keep going and see where it takes us."