FA Premier League
Wednesday 28 November 2012, 20.00 KO
City: Hart, Maicon, Kompany (c), Nastasic, Zabaleta, Y Toure, Barry, Garcia (Milner 59 (K Toure 80)), Silva, Balotelli, Aguero (Kolarov 68)
Unused: Pantilimon, K Toure, Sinclair, Tevez, Dzeko
Goals: Balotelli (69), Milner (72)
Referee: Mark Halsey
Man of the Match: Pablo Zabaleta
It was a fast paced start at the DW Stadium, as City were out of the blocks quickly with the early pressure. But it was the hosts who managed the first shot of the game, as Garcia missed the interception and Kone was played through towards the visitors’ goal. He got his shot in, but Hart was right behind it and was in place to block.
Maicon and Aguero had efforts for City both flash over the bar at the near post in the opening stages, while Zabaleta was just crowded out as he was cutely found from a neat Aguero roll back inside the box. City were struggling to create chances, while Wigan were keeping the ball well – and it worked in create a good shooting chance, as City gifted the ball away and Beausejour cut inside Maicon to shoot. But Kompany blocked.
Then it was Wigan’s turn to give the ball away cheaply. Barry tried to find Balotelli on the edge of the box, but it was a bad pass and easily cut out. However, it was presented straight to the feet of Aguero, who tried a snapshot, but he couldn’t wrap his foot around it, with the effort spinning wide of Al-Habsi’s goal.
Wigan were thankful to Lopez who managed to track Aguero on the half hour, as a poor header on the half-way line sent the Argentine through on goal. Fortunately for the home side, the striker had just collided with the advertising boards and was still feeling the effect, unable to get away from the covering centre-backs.
On 33 minutes, Wigan forged a great chance to take the lead. Zabaleta was beaten too easily on the right flank and the cross from the by-line found Kone’s head. He got there before Hart, who had come to collect, but he could only nod it over the bar under pressure. It was a let off for the visitors, who were struggling to find a good rhythm.
As the half came to a close, Gomez was lucky not to go into the book for a dive in the area, before he was shown a yellow card for a late challenge on Barry. In stoppage time, Yaya Toure drove into the box from the left flank and shot at the near post, but Al-Habsi was in a good position to block. Balotelli picked up the rebound eventually, but there wasn’t enough time for him to work himself into a shooting position.
Mario Balotelli tried a shot straight from second half kick off, but it was nowhere near the net. It did, though, set the very early tempo and allowed City to move forward – resulting in a Silva shot from the edge of the area. Al-Habsi gobbled it up, but the visitors were looking more threatening than they had in the previous half. Balotelli then hit a free kick into the Wigan wall.
Five minutes into the half, City should have had a penalty as Barry’s shirt was being tugged off his back as he challenged for a Yaya Toure cross, but the referee waved the appeals away. Balotelli set up Toure on the edge of the box shortly after, but the Ivorian’s first time effort was high and wide. It was becoming all City, as Balotelli had a free header at the back post from a Maicon cross, but he, somehow, nodded it wide from two yards out.
But Wigan responded well. Pressure on the City goal meant the visitors couldn’t get out of their half and, from cross from deep, Kone found himself unmarked between Kompany and Nastasic. His free header, though, drifted wide of the post with Hart rooted. It was a golden opportunity for the hosts to take the lead.
After a sustained spell of Wigan pressure, City were struggling to get going. Aguero managed to keep possession and worm his way into the area, but the final result was neither a shot nor a cross, as it drifted out on the far side of Al-Habsi’s goal. Balotelli was penalised for trying an overhead-kick as Boyce was caught.
Balotelli’s commitment paid off for City: Barry had an effort from range after good work from Milner, Maicon and Silva on the right, and Al-Habsi spilled it to the feet of the Italian. His first effort was blocked by the goalkeeper, but his second wasn’t, hitting the back of the net. It was his first goal of the season and, despite being on the backfoot for large parts of the game, City were in front.
Three minutes later and City had doubled their lead. A break-away from a Wigan free kick saw a brilliant ball from Toure to find Maicon. He kept possession and, via Toure and Silva, found Barry on the left flank. He moved it on to Milner and, from outside the box, he smashed it straight into the top corner first-time.
With just over 12 minutes to play, Maicon should have made it three for City. Another quick break allowed Yaya Toure to smash a low cross into the box towards Balotelli. It didn’t reach the Italian, but the cut-out was perfect for the full-back to hit first time at Al-Habsi’s goal. It was on his wrong foot and he couldn’t quite find the far corner.
Two minutes later and Milner was furious with his luck. Having come on as a substitute, changed the game and grabbed himself a brilliant goal, he had to leave the pitch with an injury. He went down under no challenge, but it was the end of his game after just 20 minutes.
Despite some late pressure from Wigan, it always looked like City would go on to add to their tally. They didn’t, but it was a good result from a difficult game and a laboured performance. Nevertheless, the visitors dug deep and stole all of the points.