Balotelli strike keeps City on leaders' heels
Wigan 0 Manchester City 2
Published 29/11/2012 | 05:00
Mario Balotelli and James Milner struck in the second half as champions Manchester City edged out spirited Wigan on a freezing night at the DW Stadium.
Milner, having not long been on the field, then doubled the lead with a superb strike before being forced off injured. The result extended City's unbeaten Premier League run to 20 matches and kept them within a point of leaders Manchester United.
Balotelli was making his first start in six matches and, after a mostly frustrating night, eventually justified Roberto Mancini's selection of him ahead of Edin Dzeko.
City were the first to go close when Maicon charged down the right and fired narrowly over from a tight angle.
Maicon looked in some discomfort after a Di Santo cross struck him in the throat, but the Brazilian was able to continue after a stoppage for treatment.
Wigan's Ronnie Stam beat Zabaleta with a superb run down the right and crossed from the byline. Kone beat Hart in the air, but his header dropped on to the roof of the net, much to the relief of the goalkeeper who felt, incorrectly, the ball had gone out before Stam crossed.
Hart was then pleased to see a Jordi Gomez free-kick flash over after the Spaniard was fouled by Aguero outside the area.
Gomez, high on confidence after a match-winning hat-trick against Reading, appealed for a penalty after Zabaleta wrapped his arm around his body, but referee Mark Halsey deemed his fall too theatrical.
After being shaded in the first half, City upped the tempo and looked a much stronger proposition after the break. Balotelli sent a free-kick over and Gareth Barry felt he was impeded by Stam after getting into the area in the hope of getting on the end of a cross.
Yaya Toure then blazed over before Balotelli was guilty of a glaring miss when he headed wide from close range at the far post from an inch-perfect Maicon cross.
City then had a let-off as an unmarked Kone headed wide from a James McCarthy cross and Gomez also missed the target.
The champions needed to respond again and this time they did so decisively. Al Habsi was unable to hold Barry's low strike from the edge of the area in the 69th minute and Balotelli was quick to react.
The Italian's first effort was blocked, but he made no mistake with the second chance and he emphatically tucked away his third goal of the season in all competitions.
There was a slight delay to play restarting as Balotelli ran off to celebrate with substitute Carlos Tevez, who was warming up on the touchline.
City put the result beyond doubt just three minutes later as substitute Milner, brought on for the ineffective Javi Garcia, found the top corner with a stunning long-range strike.
Maicon should have added a third after being presented the ball by a poor Emmerson Boyce clearance but side-footed wide with Al Habsi beaten.
Milner's night ended prematurely when he limped off 10 minutes from time, but it had been quite an impressive 21-minute cameo from the England international.
The scoreline was harsh on Wigan, whose spirit did not drop, but City had done what was required.