Home » EPL, Latest » Match Report: Wigan 0 Man City 1

Manchester City’s lead at the top of the Premier League is back to three points, courtesy of Edin Dzeko’s first goal in two months and a measured performance against willing but limited opponents. Roberto Mancini’s team may have to be significantly improved when they host third-placed Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday but they can still reflect on a satisfying evening’s work despite being a good notch or two below their fluent best.

This was not a night when City fully exposed the gulf between themselves and the team at the bottom of the table, but the truth is they did not have to be at their fluent best given they were playing a side that have managed only 18 goals in 21 league fixtures. Dzeko’s goal arrived in the 22nd minute and, after that, there were only sporadic moments when the team in 20th place threatened to make this an uncomfortable evening for the side in first.

City won with something to spare and will be grateful to see Manchester United disappear a little bit further into their wing-mirrors. Wigan, in contrast, look in dire trouble.

They began the game playing with a confidence that would not normally be associated with a team at the bottom of the league, but there were also moments when their defending was generous in the extreme and it was clear to see why they have won only one league fixture on their own ground this season.

Roberto Martínez’s team were obliging opponents for a team with City’s ambitions and, after an encouraging start, it felt typical of Wigan that they should let City take the lead with such a straightforward goal.

It originated from a free-kick on the left. Samir Nasri was the decoy, standing close to the ball before David Silva curled it into the penalty area. Dzeko, the tallest man on the pitch, eluded his nearest opponent, James McArthur, and the striker’s header was glanced beyond Ali al-Habsi. Mancini had identified a potential weakness in the Wigan defence when it came to aerial balls, and Dzeko exposed it with a little change of direction to make himself the space and guide in an expertly taken header.

This was his 14th goal of the season but his first since 2 November, and a timely one from City’s perspective because there have been times in the last two months when the Bosnian has looked unsure of touch and confidence. Dzeko’s form can fluctuate from brilliant to poor and Mancini will be relieved to see him rediscovering his scoring touch at a time when Mario Balotelli’s ankle injury and Carlos Tevez’s disappearing act has left Sergio Agüero as their only other available forward.

Dzeko had already put one header wide from Gaël Clichy’s cross but there had been only flashes of City’s more penetrative football until the goal and it was surprising they did not do more before half-time to take advantage of the home side’s vulnerabilities.

After taking the lead, the temptation was to believe that a team in City’s position would increase the pressure and do more to expose the gulf between the two sides. Instead, they resorted to counterattacking football when it might have been a better ploy to demonstrate a touch more adventure. Agüero had the chance to double the lead on one breakaway, teed up by Silva again, but it was not the story of near-unremitting attacking that might have been anticipated, given the way City have accumulated goals so far this season and Wigan have conceded them.

Suddenly it felt like a top-versus-bottom game, with Silva, Agüero and Dzeko interchanging positions, elusive opponents as Wigan were pressed into their own half and Hugo Rodallega and Victor Moses became increasingly isolated in attack. Shortly before the hour, Agüero could not apply the final touch to Clichy’s low and inviting cross into the six-yard area and, at this point, it was very much a backs-to-the-wall operation for the home side.

The major problem for Wigan was that when they had possession they were so sterile in attack. They moved the ball well at times but their poor goal return so far this season is no fluke. Their top scorer in the league is a midfielder, Jordi Gómez, with four goals and, for the most part, there was never any sense that City were missing the suspended Vincent Kompany. Stefan Savic had looked vulnerable against Liverpool in last week’s Carling Cup game but this was a far less demanding examination for the former Partizan Belgrade player.

Instead, City had enough chances in the second half to turn the game into a rout and Maynor Figueroa was fortunate not to be shown a red card when his handball denied Agüero a clear run at goal. Once again, we had the sight of Mancini brandishing an imaginary card on the touchline but, even with 11 men, Wigan were scarcely a threat.

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