Wigan produced a superb battling performance at the Etihad Stadium but were denied a share of the points by a piece of Carlos Tevez brilliance in the 83rd minute. The Latics remain in the bottom three but still have a game in hand on their rivals while City remain 13 points behind leaders Manchester United.
Wigan had matched their high-flying opponents in the rehearsal for next month’s FA Cup final but were unable to make their chances count against a lacklustre City. Franco Di Santo had the best chance of the first half when his close range effort was well saved by Joe Hart. In the second half Shaun Maloney’s curled effort beat Hart but was cleared off the line by Joleon Lescott.
Wigan made two changes to their FA Cup semi final line-up with Joel Robles replacing Ali Al Habsi in-goal and Franco Di Santo taking over from Callum McManaman upfront. City made five changes from their win over Chelsea with long absentee Micah Richards returning after a knee operation.
The Latics made a good start to the game in a relatively subdued Stadium. The empty seats perhaps reflecting the high ticket prices which have just been announced for the forthcoming FA Cup final.
The away team were playing high up the pitch and denying City any space to get their game going. But although they were pressing they found it hard to penetrate the City defence until Franco Di Santo had a glorious opportunity to give them the lead on 36 minutes. The Argentinian international striker was played in by Maloney after good work by Arouna Kone and looked odds-on to score, but his shot was telegraphed by Joe Hart who saved diving to his right.
Wigan’s excellent first half performance was typified by the fact that City couldn’t muster a shot on target in the opening 45 minutes.
Roberto Mancini introduced Edin Dzeko at half time in an attempt to get some cutting edge into City’s game, but it was Wigan who threatened to take the lead when Maloney’s curled shot evaded the City keeper Hart but was hacked off the line by Lescott.
The home team were getting more and more frustrated and Tevez was booked for a petulant challenge on Maynor Figueroa.
Wigan were dominating possession and camped around the City area and if it was not for some superb defending by City’s captain Vincent Kompany they would have been ahead. The Belgian defender produced a last-ditch sliding challenge which blocked Kone’s close-range effort when he looked likely to score.
James Milner replaced Javi Garcia for City and Callum McManaman took over from Di Santo for Wigan but City could not stem the tide of Wigan attacks. McManaman was soon in the action when he cut inside Lescott and unleashed an angled shot which was well saved by Hart.
As the game moved towards full-time Wigan appeared to tire and they started to give the ball away a little too often. Joel Robles saved with his legs after Edin Dzeko had been allowed too much freedom on the edge of the box. Then Carlos Tevez was denied by some superb defending from the tireless James McCarthy before the controversial Argentinian destroyed all Wigan’s hard work. He evaded the challenges of Jordi Gomez and Paul Scharner before driving his shot into the top corner of the Wigan goal.
It was the cruellest of blows for a Wigan team who deserved to get at least a point for their efforts. Despite the result, the performance will give them hope that they can create an upset in the FA Cup Final, and that they can still avoid relegation.