By BEN HUNT
EDIN DZEKO is ready to answer Roberto Mancini’s call for a regular scorer.
The Bosnian striker bagged a brace and was only denied a hat-trick when Norwich keeper Mark Bunn got a hand to his second-half strike.
Dzeko, 26, was making his first start for Manchester City since their defeat to Borussia Dortmund on December 4.
And he formed a lethal partnership with Sergio Aguero, who had a hand in his two goals and bagged one himself.
Dzeko took his tally for City to nine goals for the season — despite starting most games on the bench.
And he hopes his display against Norwich has done enough to convince City boss Mancini that he deserves to start games ahead of Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli.
He said: “The manager gave me the chance to play today and I think I paid him back.
“It’s always good when you score with your first chance, especially when it is in the first minute, but every goal I’m happy with.
“I saw something in the papers about the forwards not being in form and scoring but we scored today, so that’s good for us.
“I don’t know why we have not scored as many goals as last season. We have had chances to score.
“But that’s football, sometimes you score so many goals and sometimes you can’t.”
City’s win came after they were beaten 1-0 by Sunderland on Boxing Day.
That result, plus rivals Manchester United beating both Newcastle and West Brom, means the Red Devils have a seven-point lead at the top of the table.
But Dzeko insists City are capable of bridging that gap quickly and is ready to pile the pressure on United.
He added: “The seven-point gap looks a lot, of course, but we look from game to game and we will fight to the end.
“The title race is open. We have so many games still to play and nothing is finished.
“There’s a chance that we can win back-to-back titles and that is our main target, but it is still too early to talk about that.”
Dzeko gave City the lead after only 81 seconds before adding a second in the fourth minute.
But Norwich pulled a goal back through Anthony Pilkington’s 15th-minute free-kick, which scampered under goalkeeper Joe Hart.
And the Premier League champions were dealt another blow when Samir Nasri was sent off just before half-time.
The French midfielder was on the receiving end of a full-blooded challenge from Sebastien Bassong and reacted angrily by squaring up to the Norwich defender.
As the two clashed, referee Mike Jones showed Nasri a red card while Bassong only saw yellow. City say they will appeal the decision and Dzeko said their numerical disadvantage made life difficult for them in the second half.
He said: “I don’t know whether it was a red card. I think it was a little bit harsh.
“After the sending-off, I was not surprised that Norwich came back because it was hard to play with one player missing.
“But we showed good character. It was the perfect response to the defeat to Sunderland and we deserved it.”
Aguero added a third for City before Russell Martin made it 3-2 when he headed home from Bassong’s header.
Dzeko then got the better of an offside decision before firing past Bunn, though the Canaries keeper was the last to touch the ball after it bounced off him and over the line.
And Martin added his second and Norwich’s third in the 75th minute to set up a tense final 15 minutes.
But City held on, leaving Mancini delighted with the three points — while he refused to point an accusing finger at his leaky defence.
Instead he was angry that ref Jones punished Nasri and not Bassong. He said: “If the referee decided to send off one player for this, then it should have been both.
“I was happy how we defended. We were with 10 players for 45 minutes but we conceded the second goal because we did not mark.
“Other than that I was happy because to defend with 10 men in the second half is difficult.
“Before we were one of the best defences in the Premier League, yet at Norwich we conceded three goals.
“When we have all the players, it would be difficult for them to score against us.
“At Sunderland, I was disappointed because we missed so many goals.
“When you go away and have 70 per cent possession and 24 chances to score, you cannot lose a game, never.
“If we play like we did against Sunderland and Norwich with the same attitude, then it will be very important for us this season.”
Canaries chief Chris Hughton looked on the bright side after a third straight league defeat. He said: “If you had asked me at the beginning of the season if I would be happy with the points tally we have at this stage, then yes, I would be happy.”