Wigan made the gap between top and bottom look a narrow one as they gave a hard-working performance against their wealthy rivals.
Before kick off City’s strength in-depth was for all to see as the injured Mario Ballotelli was replaced by £35m man Edin Dzeko and Pablo Zabeleta deputised for Micah Richards. Wigan started with an attacking line-up that included Albert Crusat, Hugo Rodallega and Victor Moses, with James McArthur filling in for Momo Diame who is on African Nations Cup duty.
As expected City dominated possession in the opening proceedings as Wigan were careful not to concede an early goal. But it was Wigan who were creating chances as Crusat fired his centre across the six yard box and Victor Moses produced some darting forward runs.
However, on 22 minutes it was Dzeko’s height that made the difference, the 6ft 4in striker out-jumped Antolin Alcaraz from David Silva’s free kick to head past Ali Al Habsi.
The team’s went into the break evenly matched but City had the decisive lead.
The second half commenced with City creating some good chances and Wigan’s defending looking haphazard. In fact, it was only a superb Man of the Match performance from Al Habsi that prevented City adding to their lead. First he denied Dzeko with an outstanding reflex save and then diving to his left he superbly kept out Silva’s shot. Sergio Aguero wasted another good chance after an amazing dribble, but Wigan’s goal was not to be breached again.
City noticeably tired and Wigan pushed them back while growing in confidence. James McCarthy drove forward and his goal bound shot was excellently turned around the post by Joe Hart.
Roberto Martinez replaced Crusat and Gomez with Ben Watson and Franco Di Santo and Roberto Mancini introduced Nigel de Jong and Nedum Onuoha for Silva and Nasri. Wigan were pegging City back in their own half, but although Moses continued to look lively, the final ball into the box was limited.
As the game moved towards the final whistle, controversy ensued as Maynor Figueroa standing just inside the City half handled the ball preventing Aguero from running through. Figueroa was only given a yellow card by referee Martin Atkinson. There was turmoil on the touch-line as Mancini remonstrated that it should be a red card. His behaviour was certainly not befitting of his profession. Mancini’s agitation signified that he was not happy with referee Martin Atkinson but also that he was aware that Wigan had pushed City very close and could still equalise.
In the final minutes Wigan pushed men forward with Callum McManaman added to the forward line, but they just couldn’t get enough players and crosses into the box to cause any damage.
As against Chelsea and Liverpool, Wigan’s performance had been hard-working and spirited but ultimately they lacked the killer punch.
Wigan’s next game is a crunch clash with QPR at Loftus Road, points from this game are now crucial if Wigan are to close the gap with the teams above them.