MAN CITY 1 WIGAN 0 – King Carlos to the rescue

On a night of chronic under performance and frustration, two massive bonuses emerged for Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.

Having played second fiddle to an adventurous Wigan Athletic for the majority of 94 minutes, a cracking Carlos Tevez strike saw City snatch an expected, but undeserved win.

More significantly in the context of this campaign, Roberto Mancini’s men were served notice that the FA Cup Final will be anything but a walk in the park at Wembley on 11th May.

Mitigation abounds for Mancini’s side’s below par showing following a very flat, uninspiring victory. It was always going to be a case of after ‘The Lord Mayor’s Show’ but, nonetheless, it was incredibly irritating to watch the Champions lumber through the motions.

Mancini made five changes after the titanic, physically and mentally draining, FA Cup semi final against Chelsea on Sunday. The Italian used his rotation system but clearly it disrupted City’s rhythm.

The Premier League’s top defence was virtually unrecognizable with Clichy, Zaba and Nastasic making way for Kolarov, Lescott and the returning, but ring rusty Richards. Naturally, Joe Hart was restored to goal after his shock omission at Wembley. Influential and in-form James Milner was given a breather with Javi Garcia starting.

It was a strangely lethargic, lacklustre City on show, whereas the relegation threatened Latics were decidedly sharper.

Wembley colossus Yaya Toure degenerated into a lackadaisical, sloppy individual, squandering possession and being dispossessed with alarming regularity, but hey, we all have a bad day at the office once in a while.

Mancini said his team were tired after the highs of Wembley and, while one understands the human dimension and the frailties of the species, these are professional athletes, five of whom were as fresh as the morning dew!

The saying is that if a team plays badly and still wins then it’s a good thing. By their own exemplary standards, City were appalling, so does that make them world-beaters?

Very rarely would I concede that City were lucky to win, but this is one such occasion. Roberto Martinez’s men were fleet of foot, quicker to the ball, more incisive and, frankly, the better team throughout the evening.

Wigan top scorer Arouna Kone was a constant threat to Kompany and Lescott, whereas ex-Celtic and Villa midfielder Shaun Maloney a menace with his probing passes and willingness to ‘have a go’ at goal.

Richards was given an unconventional welcome back to the first team with a kick in the head from Jean Beausejour. It was the said Wigan ‘ninja’ whose cross was cleared by Kolarov as Kone hovered with intent.

Kone was involved in a lightning raid by the visitors, linking with Maloney before Di Santo evaded Lescott and Kolarov for what seemed a certain Wigan goal.

Hart reminded everyone that he IS the best goalkeeper in England with a sensational point blank save. City immediately launched their own assault with Yaya thundering up the field, laying it off to Tevez whose low cross eluded Aguero’s boot by a fraction of an inch.

The second half continued in much the same vein. Maloney curved a beautiful shot around Hart only for Lescott – covering his keeper’s back  – to clear inches from the line.

Kompany’s last ditch challenge denied Kone on the six yard box, helping Hart on his way to his third Golden Glove award for clean sheets in a season.

City sought to redress the balance with substitute Milner’s brilliant cross across the face of the Wigan goal, but to no avail.  Moments later sub Dzeko’s snap shot was snuffled out after good approach play from Tevez and Yaya.

The game ebbed and flowed and and Paul Scharner – with his immaculate ‘Superman’ hair parting – sent a header crashing against the crossbar – ruffling City’s feathers if not his own follicles – before the effort was ruled offside.

It appeared as if City might fail to score at home for the first time in a league match at the 47th attempt – but King Carlos had other ideas.

Samir Nasri continued his recent effective streak as he made one of several forays upfield, before playing the ball out wide left to Kolarov. The Serb with the sweet left foot squared the ball to the ever industrious Tevez.

Now fully restored in the eyes of most City fans as one the club’s best and most favoured sons, Carlito wriggled and dribbled past Scharner and other members of the Wigan rearguard, ‘opening up’ his body, as if to shoot at the far right of keeper Joel’s goal.

Instead he somehow managed to re-direct a rapier like strike into the roof of the net at the near post.

Hallelujah! City in the lead, against the run of play. The home side had, nonetheless, had the majority of possession and mustered 10 attempts with four on target.

It was a less than magnificent seventh win on the bounce against Wigan – seven games where City have neutralised the threat of their opponents , blanking them on each outing.

Wigan are now deeply entrenched in their annual relegation skirmish and one wonders how much attention they will be able to give the FA Cup Final, while fighting for their top flight footballing lives.

As for City, they surely cannot play as badly as this, come the big day. The team now oozes players who are more than capable of expressing themselves and celebrating their skills on the biggest of stages.

The mentality, the overall approach and levels of application will need to be and – without a shadow of a doubt – will be, spot on for 11th May. City had a fortunate escape, but it served as a timely reminder that a Roberto Martinez side is well capable of causing problems and even an upset.

The beauty of City’s situation is that a Roberto Mancini side is even more capable of counteracting any such threat and asserting its supremacy in all departments.

On a night of gusty weather and abandoned supermarket carrier bags swirling around the Etihad pitch, Wigan undoubtedly put the wind up City.

Having weathered the storm, City are just about home and hosed in second place and able to give their undivided attention to a hat-trick of trophies for their passionate Italian leader.

 Forza Mancini.

 

15 Comments

  1. April 18, 2013  2:20 pm by Frank Reply

    Another well written, fair and balanced read. Well done. A near disaster for us yesterday. Was surprised both Tevez and Aguero started, though Lescott again proved why we probably shouldn't sell him. Garcia and Kolarov are a different story. Seeing DeJong at the Etihad was a reminder that he shouldn't have been sold either. He would have been perfect for a game like this. Can't wait for Silva to come back, hopefully this weekend.

    • April 19, 2013  12:16 am by David Walker Reply

      Thanks for your feedback #MCFCFAMILY

  2. April 18, 2013  2:30 pm by Graham Ward Reply

    Yes, a very ordinary performance, and a lucky win, as you quite rightly say, David. Keeping a clean sheet gives you a chance to win the game, and Tevez took his superbly.
    I don't quite agree that second place is secured yet, but a positive result on Sunday against Spurs might just do it.
    Wigan are a good footballing side, would rather they escape the drop than the likes of Stoke. Good luck to them (apart trom the Final!).

    • April 19, 2013  12:17 am by David Walker Reply

      I think 2nd place is secured but I agree - a win against Gareth Bale FC should do it.

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  4. April 18, 2013  4:06 pm by @thegingerwig Reply

    Didn't think Hart was a shock omission at Wembley, Pantilimon has played every other FA cup match and hadn't conceded a goal. Plus Hart has been making a few errors this year and may be the kick up the wotsit he needs.

    • April 19, 2013  12:18 am by David Walker Reply

      Pants will definitely start the Final - well deserved for performances and loyalty.

  5. April 18, 2013  5:03 pm by Andy Devereux Reply

    Great read again David.It was a very laboured performance last night and i did feel sorry for Wigan by the end,having said that if they got their fingers out from August instead of waiting till March they wouldn't be in the mire.A spark of superstar quality from Tevez saved the day but it was a poor watch overall.I think we will be ok for second place and i'm certain it will be a very different City display come 11 May at Wembley.

    • April 19, 2013  12:19 am by David Walker Reply

      Agree on all points. Sign Tevez up for at lleast another year plus one, even two, years and then let him go to Boca Juniors on a free - everyone's a winner.

  6. April 18, 2013  7:42 pm by samrich Reply

    You are right not one of the best displays but they ground out the win as champions do and I would take that anyday and even more importantly it keeps the rags off our trophy for a while longer

    • April 19, 2013  12:20 am by David Walker Reply

      It does indeed keep their filthy red mits off it - but we WILL have it back in May 2014 - ABSOLUTELY CONVINCED OF IT.

  7. April 19, 2013  9:32 am by carol main Reply

    corr we made heavy weather of that one eh? never mind, we cant always play like we did sunday, we'd be knackered!

  8. April 20, 2013  12:50 am by Kev Russell Reply

    Missed my dose of top journalism from our David but back to enjoy the last few gems of this season. It was a victory that keeps up our momentum to hopefully close the gap. This will remind the rest of the prem that we will be fighting to bring the trophy back to our patch. I hope Jose does go to London because it will be even sweeter to see Mancini tell him "If I only finished 3rd in this league, I would be sacked!" I seem to remember the special one saying similar to our gaffer after the CL exit this season. Great writing David. #TopScriber

  9. April 20, 2013  2:57 pm by David Walker Reply

    Great to have you back Kev! Health, wealth and happiness.

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