Wigan made the short trip down the East Lancs road and over the Mancunian way to take on our near neighbours whose annual wage bill could rival the annual gross domestic product of many small countries.
Martinez sprang a surprise leaving the artistic Gomez on the bench replacing him with the more combative McArthur. Of the late deadline signings only Crusat made it as far as the bench, replacing Thomas with no sign of Van Aanholt or Maloney.
City’s embarrassment of riches allowed them to leave four goal hero Dzeko on the bench along with Balotelli and Nasri allowing a season’s first start for Carlos Tevez.
City had the first chance when Clichy broke down the down the left and fed the ball through to Adam Johnson but thankfully for Wigan the England international fired over.
Latics defence was under almost constant pressure and Al Habsi showed his worth by two smart saves from Aguero and Silva, however the respite was short lived when forgotten man Tevez combined well with Silva, the ball found Aguero and with Wigan players seemingly timid of tackling the forward he fired into the corner, leaving Al Habsi with no chance and Wigan were behind.
Any thought that City would sit back on the lead with a European game coming in midweek were quickly dispelled as Silva who was giving Figueroa a torrid time was felled by the Honduran. Very shortly after Silva was felled again, this time in the area by Lopez and Mr Atkinson had no hesitation in awarding the penalty. Tevez stepped up to take the penalty but a fantastic save by Al Habsi kept the score to one nil.
City continued their pressure and from a corner Adam Johnson once again fired over. For Latics, chances were few and far between with Di Santo firing wide from the edge of the
Richards almost scored when put through by Tevez, beating Wigan’s static defence. Al Habsi came out to narrow the angles and Richards lifted the ball over the Omani but fortunately for Wigan, the ball came back off the bar. Another chance followed shortly afterwards, again for City when Aguero fired just wide and Wigan were metaphorically speaking on the ropes.
Latics kept trying to play football but City showed that they can defend as well as attack and all Latics efforts came to naught.
Time and again City came at Wigan and from a corner from Milner, the ball was met by Kompany whose header hit the post, the rebound fell to Silva who shot across the goal but fortunately for Wigan, Lescott couldn’t get his toe to the ball and the score remained one nil.
Latics kept trying to play football and a foul on Moses gave Wigan a free kick, taken by Watson, which was headed narrowly wide by Moses from close range. Another rare chance to Wigan fell to Di Santo from a blocked Rodallega shot but the largely redundant Hart saved well pushing the ball awayFor Wigan their other only chances worthy of note in the first half were a shot by Rodallega being blocked by Kompany and Diame firing far over the bar.
Half time brought a welcome relief for a Wigan team who never stopped trying but as the stats confirmed with almost two thirds of the possession going to the home side, Wigan were under pressure for most of the half. However the difference still being only one goal and with the few half chances towards the mid point of the game, Martinez had something to build upon.
The second half started with no changes in the line ups from either manager, City resuming where they left off with a shot from Tevez being well saved by Al Habsi.
Wigan were playing with more confidence and exerting more pressure with some neat flowing football with Moses looking dangerous every time he received the football.
City countered and a shot from Silva hit the hand of Caldwell, referee Martin Atkinson correctly ruling that Caldwell was too close to move his hand and awarding a corner rather than a penalty.
For Wigan Di Santo was proving a handful for the City defence and a couple of half chances came to nothing.
Wigan opted to make the first change of the afternoon replacing the industrious Boyce with the more attacking play of Ronnie Stam.
City took the opportunity to bring on Nasri and his first touch was to play in Aguero who wasted no time in doubling his goal tally for the afternoon and the City lead.
That man Silva was very soon at it again, skipping through some ineffective Wigan defending and putting Aguero in who took his time and placed the ball pastthe despairing left hand of Al Habsi.
Martinez is a man who sticks to his
principles and even at three down he opted to bring on attacking substitutes in debutant Crusat and Gomez to replace Watson and Di Santo, Rodallega moving into the lone forward role.
Latics continued to pass the ball around but more times that not it was in their own half or around the penalty area, City were content to let Latics have the possession, waiting for
the inevitable error and then counter attacking with pace.
For the last fifteen minutes the game was played out in manner that suggested both sides had decided it was game over, which was supported by the large number of City fans leaving to beat the traffic. City did have a chance for a fourth, Johnson shooting from the right hand side just across the Latics goal line.
Wigan did manage to get into the City penalty area in injury time but Gomez was unable to get the ball out from under his feet and City managed to clear the ball.
The full time whistle brought a welcome respite from the footballing lessons dealt out by the home side and whilst Wigan’s footballing ethos must be admired, nagging doubts
regarding the wisdom of trying to out play more skilful teams persist.
Boyce ( Stam), Lopez, Caldwell (c), Figueroa
Moses, McArthur, Watson( Gomez), Rodallega
Di Santo ( Crusat)
Man of the Match…
Ali Al Habsi, the scoreline might have reached double figures but for him.
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