Manchester City 1 Wigan 0

Barclay’s English Premiership
Saturday 17 January 2009, 15:00 KO

City: Hart, Richards, Dunne (c), Onuoha, Bridge, Zabaleta, Kompany, Elano, Robinho, Wright-Phillips, Sturridge (Garrido 60)
Unused: Schmeichel, Vassell, Gelson, Weiss, Jo, Caicedo
Goals: Zabaleta (52)
Booked: Robinho
Sent Off: Dunne
City Man of the Match: Pablo Zabaleta

Wayne Bridge made his debut for City, who had changed the personnel slightly to allow Richards to switch to right back and Zabaleta to push into the midfield. And it was a change that worked quite well for City, with Onuoha coming in and doing very well and Zabaleta controlling the game.

And Bridge was in the action at the start, as he forced Melchiot into conceding a throw-in and Wright-Phillips came close to flicking the ball over Kirkland from it. Bridge then went on a run down field, which finished with him closing down a Kirkland clearance.

Robinho then should have scored on 12 minutes, after an Elano through ball sent him free towards goal, but, as he tried to sidestep Kirkland under pressure from Scharner, he passed the ball well wide of the goal.

Kompany then tried his luck with a volley, but hit it well wide, before Robinho had the crowd and the City team shouting for a penalty for a possible handball.

Wigan had Titus Bramble to thank for keeping it level just after 20 minutes, when Elano knocked a ball through for Robinho, who chipped Kirkland. But, unfortunately for City, Bramble was on hand to volley the ball off the line.

Some good build-up play from City sent Shaun Wright-Phillips sprinting after a through ball down the right flank and his cross found Sturridge in the six yard box, who headed over and probably should have done better.

Palacios then flashed a shot straight at Joe Hart, before curling one wide and as the board went up for stoppage time Emile Heskey should have done better with a free header, that he sent over the bar.

City started the second half slowly, but soon picked up with some good work from Sturridge down the right. He crossed to the near post and Melchiot’s clearance fell only to Zabaleta, who took a touch to set himself and volleyed the ball past Kirkland from 20 yards for his first City goal.

But as the City fans took their seats from celebrating the goal, they were in for a shock. Less than a minute later, Richard Dunne reacted to an Amr Zaki elbow by kicking out and he earned himself a red card, with over an hour to play. Dunne was wrong to react, but surely the referee was wrong to not also send Zaki to the changing rooms?

Wigan began to pile onto the pressure, but City defended superbly. The visitors wanted a penalty for a handball on the line, but Elano had in fact chested the ball down and cleared.

The first, of what seemed like too many, goalmouth scrambles finished with Melchiot firing a fierce drive into Zabaleta, who deflected the shot away.

But City were still dangerous on the break – Robinho was booked for a cheeky handball that almost set himself through on goal and Shaun Wright-Phillips picked up a neat Elano flick to shoot just wide from distance.

Zabaleta’s abdomen was then in the way of another Wigan attack, and the Argentinian was up and diving at the rebound, putting his body on the line to protect the lead.

Cattermole then headed towards goal, with Hart tipping the ball onto the bar, but the rebound fell to Zaki who had an open goal. But the Wigan forward headed over from three yards, when it seemed easier to score – and the City fans would have been furious given his involvement in Dunne’s red card.

The travelling fans wanted a free kick for a foul on Cattermole, but the referee adjudged that there was no infringement, before they were shouting for a penalty when a Garrido clearance looked to have hit Elano on the hand, but replays showed it hit his chest.

As the board went up for four minutes of added time, Cattermole shot well wide and Joe Hart produced a wonderful save to deny Melchiot an equaliser.

Kirkland joined the Wigan attack for a corner, but it was cleared and Elano’s shot from the halfway line went wide, with Kirkland still trying to get back.

The referee blew the final whistle from the resulting goal kick, but not before booking Kirkland for a foul in the build up to City’s breakway, and City had beaten Wigan for the first time in the Premier League.

Pablo Zabaleta played out of his skin to earn City their three points, but there were also top quality performances from Vincent Kompany and Nedum Onuoha, who, on another day, would easily have won the man of the match. Mark Hughes will hope this is the turning point of City’s season and they can move up the table in the rest of 2009.

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