It was a team that I don’t think would be chosen out of choice, yet the starting line-up was the best we had left, out of players that weren’t limping. Rumour was Gary Caldwell and Shaun Maloney could both be in the mix, but the team was announced and no signs of the two Scottish internationals.
Instead we saw a back five that I don’t think would have played together outside of training, yet the combination of players worked wonders. It was one of those nights that we could come away disappointed, but with our heads held high.
It was a first half that many Manchester City fans would want to forget. They couldn’t get the ball of Wigan when we wanted it, and when City did have the ball none seemed to want it. There were the little flicks and twist and even a few tricks on the ball. But rarely did they come off, and if they did it was by a stroke of luck.
Our back three with a centre of Adrian Lopez stood strong. The Spaniard who many Wigan fans felt should be moved on in the summer, proved us wrong. He was too weak for the Premier League, too rash in the tackles and not quick enough over the long distance. Everything we thought he has struggled with was over come in an excellent 90 minutes for the player, who many of the first choice defenders would find hard to replicate.
So what chances were there in the first half? In a word none, neither side really tested the keeper. A few times Wigan got the ball wide and looked to whip it across and test the City defence, but either the cross was poor, or someone cleared it away. Our best chances came through that man again, Jordi Gomez, who was also in fine form finding the gaps to try and feed players into the game. A free-kick towards the end of the half, send Joe Hart scrambling for the ball, only for it to just flash over the bar.
City weren’t doing any better, apart from a few well delivered corners; Ali Al Habsi wasn’t forced into a first half save. Mario Balotteli was dire, touches went yard out, and his pass couldn’t find players. Sergio Aguero was trying to do too much has we got men in front of him and closed the ball down. Manchester City’s one bright spark was David Silva who was looking to pick away at the Wigan defence, but he couldn’t do it on his own.
So half time and 0-0 was a fair score, it hadn’t been a boring half but neither team had forced the issue.
Roberto Mancini must have felt the pressure building. With a Champions League exit already, and Manchester United winning, City needed all three points tonight. Second half he sent them out to push hard and win.
The first five minutes they were the better side, and looked much more like the champions they are meant to be. Slick and skilful they tried again and again to break the Wigan back line and it wasn’t working, instead they were leaving gaps behind them for the Wigan charge.
The charge itself was led by Arouna Kone and Franco Di Santo. Kone should have scored eight minutes into the first half. The ball coming to James McCarthy on the right wing lifted a beautiful ball into the free Kone, whose resulting header drifted a yard wide of a static Joe Hart. Was that on target it would have been 1-0 to Wigan!
The players were lifted knowing that this team of champions were not invincible. Yet the game was opening up. Gaps were appearing both ways now and we couldn’t allow that to happen, we had to remain strong defensively and take our chances on the break with our quick forwards.
As it was the 0-0 score line wouldn’t last long. Gareth Barry having a 30 yard strike low and hard at Al Habis, it looked like a routine stop, yet the keeper spilled the ball and it fell straight at Mario Balotelli’s feet. At the third time of asking the Italian managed to put the ball in the back of the net, the only thing the player could do all night, very much a waste of space for City.
Wigan were shocked and injustice seethed around the ground. We were the better side, yet a goalkeeping error and lack of luck saw us slip up and go 1-0 down. It wouldn’t be long before it was 2-0, James Milner coming on settle City with his workman style produced a spectacular 30 yard strike to seal the victory.
It was a bitter sweet evening for Milner, his goal killed off all Wigan threat only for him to leave the pitch five minutes later with a groin injury.
You hoped Latics would get a second wind and push City hard for the last 15 minutes of the game to get a goal back and maybe even a point from the game. Yet sadly the effort of a strong 70 minutes, had taken its toll. Dejected our players tried to muster some attack, but City who no longer had to chase the game could sit and relax on the ball passing it around us.
A change you felt would have been a good thing early on to liven our attack up. Bring off one of our tired players and bring on the youth which sat on the bench. The change came, but it was too late on the 88th minute Callum McManaman took to the pitch, for his only contribution to be winning a foul of Gareth Barry.
A good game to watch, and a great Wigan performance, it feels very ominous that our results aren’t rewarding us with the points we deserve.