A damaging draw became a hard-fought victory, and momentum maintained as City's grip on second place is cemented.
Carlos Tevez winner against Wigan helps Manchester City close gap on United
Manchester City 1 Wigan Athletic 0
Man City: Tevez 83'
MANCHESTER // For Manchester City, the stalest of stalemates beckoned. They were being held, and at times outplayed, by Wigan Athletic. The FA Cup final dress rehearsal suggested Roberto Mancini's men would be disappointed at Wembley Stadium on May 11.
Then, suddenly, a damaging draw became a hard-fought victory. Carlos Tevez, like a force of nature, powered through to score a solo goal. City had their eighth win in nine games. Momentum was maintained, Manchester United's "insurmountable" lead was reduced by two points and City's grip on second place cemented.
Spare a thought, though, for Wigan. They remain in the bottom three, three points from safety and after playing one of their games in hand.
Yet for much of this match, they were the more assured and composed in possession, the more creative and even the classier. They are entitled to see the score line as an injustice and have only six games left to salvage their Premier League status. The consolation is that if they continue to play as well, they will have every chance.
City, meanwhile, never touched the heights they reached in recent wins over Manchester United and Chelsea. Perhaps fatigue was a factor, after their FA Cup semi-final win over Chelsea, but Mancini was able to select Micah Richards for just his fifth appearance of the season and his first since October, when a knee injury interrupted his campaign. The overworked Pablo Zabaleta was given a rare rest, not even on the bench as Mancini made five changes.
Roberto Martinez believes he has the strongest squad of his time at Wigan, but nevertheless does not have the same alternatives. Franco di Santo was the only outfield player to come into his team. However, with greater continuity in the side, Wigan made the smoother start against a City defence where only Vincent Kompany retained his place.
Indeed, Mancini's side were subdued and the crowd only came to life when news came of Ricardo Vaz Te's opening goal for West Ham against United.
City's match-winner at Old Trafford last week, meanwhile, was threatening. When darting through, Sergio Aguero could not quite control Yaya Toure's chipped pass over the Wigan defence. From the tightest of angles, he managed a shot on the visitors' goal, but he could not bend it back inside the far post. Sliding, he almost connected with Tevez's cross.
Aleksandar Kolarov, one of those with most to prove, was prominent, even if his radar was awry but City were lacking a spark. There was no David Silva, who should make his comeback at Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday and, when Samir Nasri was hurt by a challenge from Jordi Gomez, City feared they had lost their other creative midfielder. Instead, the Frenchman continued.
Mancini's half-time move was to send on Edin Dzeko for Sergio Aguero as part of a reshuffle that involved relocating Javi Garcia to the defence. Nevertheless, Wigan remained the sharper. They had enjoyed the clearer opportunities beforehand and did so afterwards.
Just before the break, they constructed a beautiful move, Arouna Kone picking out Shaun Maloney, who delicately flicked the ball into Di Santo's path. The Argentine advanced unconvincingly on goal and the recalled Joe Hart flung himself at his feet to block.
Four minutes after the interval, the lively Maloney skipped away from two defenders and curled in a shot. Retreating to his own line, Joleon Lescott cleared it. With Hart beaten, it was just as well he did. Another of the defence, Kompany, made an equally important contribution with a well-timed block when Kone seemed likely to score.
City belatedly displayed some urgency with Tevez running at the Wigan defence. It was his strike partner, however, who had their ideal opening. Yaya Toure picked out the unmarked Dzeko but Joel Robles was out quickly to stop.
Wigan's Paul Scharner had just hit the bar, although he was offside, when Tevez accepted Kolarov's pass, skipped between two defenders and sprinted through to score. Game over, cruel as it was for Wigan.
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