Tevez hat-trick fires City dreams
Man City 3
Six days on, it is time for Roberto Mancini and Manchester City to forget the handbags and, instead, celebrate the man who can fashion a silk purse from a sow's ear.
Carlos Tevez, scorer of a brilliant second-half hat-trick to see off a spirited Wigan side, fired City into fifth and the difference, perhaps, between success and failure for the world's richest club.
It was only the Argentine's magic which disguised an otherwise laboured, laborious performance that turned largely on the controversial dismissal of visiting captain Gary Caldwell. City were flattered by the scoreline, but that will concern few at Eastlands. All that matters here is the destination, not the route.
Mancini may have taken the opportunity, in his programme notes, to apologise once more for his touchline contretemps with David Moyes during the 2-0 defeat to Everton, but for much of a limp first-half display, though, it seemed as though Roberto Martinez's visitors, rugged and uncompromising, had taken more heed of the City manager's words than Mancini's own charges.
Martinez may, even with his side far from safe from relegation, remain one of the game's purists, but he has suffered enough away from home in his debut season in the Premier League to know what is needed in such circumstances.
Wigan, imposing, brimming with power, crunched into every tackle, hared to close down space, threw bodies in to block shots. City, infinitely more expensive, infinitely more experienced, found themselves asphyxiated. True, City managed to carve out the better moments of the half -- Vladimir Stojkovic producing a remarkable reaction save to deny Tevez, the returning Emmanuel Adebayor seeing a goal-bound shot blocked at the last by Caldwell -- but had Wigan's two moments of note fallen to a more proficient finisher than Paul Scharner, they too may have led at the break. As it was, the stalemate remained, the natives growing restless. City's fans know they have no time to waste.
Mancini evidently does, too. Having chosen to exclude Craig Bellamy and Gareth Barry from the starting line-up, he brought the Welshman, so often his side's pumping fist, on at half-time, as soon as it was seemly to do so. The game's dynamic changed irrevocably after Caldwell was sent off with 35 minutes left to play.
The Scot lunged recklessly at Tevez, yes, although he played the ball first. Stuart Attwell, having not shown so much as a yellow card previously despite several feisty challenges, dismissed the Wigan captain, to the visitors' apoplexy.
The controversy was not yet over. Handed the initiative by virtue of their man advantage, City's siege began. Twice Attwell waved away penalty appeals before Tevez, finally, broke the deadlock, clipping home Patrick Vieira's through ball after Stojkovic appeared to be fouled by Adebayor. Three minutes later, the Argentine had sealed it, their guests, seething at perceived injustices, lost their discipline.
His strike partner had already missed one glaring opportunity when Vincent Kompany cleverly flicked Javier Garrido's low ball across the box into his path and Tevez slotted home. As with his third 10 minutes later, beating Scharner and teasing Bramble before firing past Stojkovic, there could be no complaints. (©Daily Telegraph, London)