Balotelli gamble pays off for Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini

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MANCHESTER City manager Roberto Mancini admitted he took a gamble by using Mario Balotelli as a lone striker in last night's FA Cup victory against Aston Villa.

Balotelli produced his usual unpredictable performance at Eastlands, scoring a brilliant goal, suffering an injury, getting booked and acting as peacemaker in a 3-0 win that earned the Blues a quarter-final meeting with Reading on March 13.

It means the Italian now has 10 goals from his 18 City games, eight bookings and a red card. Little wonder no one can be quite sure what the temperamental 20-year-old is going to do next.

But Mancini is happy he took the responsibility anyway.

"I took a risk to play only Mario up front," said Mancini, who axed both Carlos Tevez and Edin Dzeko.

"But Mario played well and scored a fantastic goal.

"I was very pleased with the overall performance. This game was very important for us."

Wigan are next up for the Blues, who then go to the Ukraine for the first leg of their Europa League clash with Dynamo Kiev before entertaining Reading, when they hope to clinch their first FA Cup semi-final berth since 1981.