By Andy Leggott
Wigan did improve in the second half and it was on 70 minutes that they created their first real chance of the game. Barry sold Milner short and he ceded possession to Wigan. The ball was played to McCarthy in the area and his shot was destined for the bottom corner; that was until Hart stuck out a size 10 and diverted it away from goal. Strangely, given this was all he was called on to do, Gary Neville awarded Hart the MOTM award simply for this save. Whilst I understand his reasoning there was no way Hart was as influential as the two strikers or Barry who once again controlled the midfield with a degree of efficiency that is lost on some supporters.
City went into the game at the DW as a club in crisis; well according to certain sections of the media they did. After all United had closed the gap to just goal difference and Spurs to two points all on the back of City not yet having played over the weekend. Still a first away win in the league since November 5th needed to be secured if the 3 point lead was to be maintained.
Balotelli and Richards were missing from the starting line up due to injuries sustained in the Carling Cup defeat against
Liverpool which meant a recall for Dzeko up front and Savic maintaining his slot in the centre of defence. Zabaleta was recalled at right back and was given the captain’s armband on his 27th birthday. With Silva and Nasri returning to the starting line up Johnson and De Jong dropped to the bench.
With an attacking starting line up the intent was clear; score an early goal and prevent a build up of the frustration that led to dropped points at
Sunderland and WBA. With that in mind it was City who made all of the early running against a Wigan side that looked for all intents and purposes like a side that already had relegation on its mind.
On 5 minutes City gave warning of things to come when Dzeko beat Caldwell in the air to meet a deep cross from Silva with his head. Perhaps it was a sign of his recent lack of confidence but the header was directed well wide when easier to hit the net. Still it was a lesson that
Wigan would have done well to heed later in the first half when Alcaraz conceded the softest of fouls on Dzeko. Silva took the free kick and Dzeko again beat to the ball. This time the header was sublime and despite Al –Habsi’s best attempts the ball went beyond his reach into the top corner. Caldwell
The early lead that City had set up for having been secured the team was then able to impose their style on the game;
Wigan were denied possession and City moved the ball easily despite the poor surface. For all their possession however the chances were limited and other than an Al-Habsi save from Aguero on 44 minutes neither keeper was really tested further in the first half.
The second half saw lots more City possession but this time with more intent. Aguero’s running was a constant thorn in the
Wigan defence and Dzeko had his best all round game for a long time. On 55 minutes Al-Habsi came to the rescue of Wigan again with a fine double save from first Dzeko’s cheeky chip come shot towards the top corner followed up by Silva’s shot from the rebound. Shortly after Aguero showed how the father-in-law used to run past opponents when single handed he took on the Wigan defence; dribbling around three of them and positioning himself for what would surely be a goal of the season contender. Sadly it ended there as Dzeko decided to do what no Wigan defender could and take it off Aguero’s toes before passing calmly back to Al-Habsi.
Heeding the warnings of the late blow at
Sunderland, Mancini opted to tighten things up late in the game by bringing on De Jong and Onouha for Silva and Nasri. It was a welcome change of tack and showed an appreciation that lessons had been learnt during the last few games. What we have we kept rather than over committing and dropping points late in the game.
As seems to be the case at the minute there was still time for late controversy involving the referee and Mancini. It came in the 90th minute when the ball was cleared long from a
Wigan corner. The ball bounced short of Figueroa and was clearly going over his head with Aguero through on goal. Figueroa cynically raised his hand and played the ball forward and away from Aguero; a clear hand ball and denial of an obvious goal scoring opportunity? Well for most people yes; for Martin Atkinson however it was only worthy of yellow. Mancini reacted furiously on the touchline and waved his imaginary card in a gesture that suggested he thought it should have been red. I have no issues with this but can understand why others do, however I feel it is the sheer number of decisions currently going against City that is frustrating Mancini rather than any desire to see individuals dismissed. Perhaps if he tones it down the pundits may discuss the poor refereeing standards that are to blame? Then again I won’t hold my breath.
So a gutsy, hard fought 1-0 win at
Wigan on a cold January night. This was just the sort of fixture that all and sundry rushed to tell us that our ‘mercenaries’ wouldn’t be up for. Still it’s not the first time, nor will it be the last, that they have got things wrong with regards this City side. And what about the crisis club? Well they currently sit 3 points clear at the top of the Premier League and alone on top of the Premier League current form table. Some crisis indeed!!!!