Wednesday 13 December 2017

Slim pickings as City keep striking talent hidden

Manchester City 1 Wigan 0

When you are down at the bottom of the league very little in the way of luck comes your way, and after giving a much better account of themselves away to Manchester City than they had done at home to Manchester United last week, Wigan left empty-handed through their own carelessness.

A goalkeeping howler by the normally reliable Ali al-Habsi presented City with the points on a day when the hosts were well below their best, leaving Wigan the hollow satisfaction of having played the better football for much of the game but then having thrown away the result.

Kolo Toure was stuck in the stands for this game, though he is still welcome at the training ground and City intend to remain supportive of the player while the FA's investigative procedure runs its course. While the club would not confirm or deny Arsene Wenger's interpretation of events regarding the medication Toure may have been using, they were surprised the Arsenal manager took it upon himself to go public on the matter.

With snoods as well as stimulants banned from next season, City are going to have to get their act together. Carlos Tevez risked a bare neck on one of the colder recent Saturdays in anticipation of the Fifa ruling that comes into force after the summer, leaving Mario Balotelli the only one clinging to his comfort blanket. The Italian was quickly into the action, bringing a save from al-Habsi as early as the fourth minute with the first shot of the game.

A surging run by Tevez took Antolin Alcaraz and Maynor Figueroa out of the game, only for the eventual shot to roll the wrong side of al-Habsi's right upright. David Silva missed the other post a few seconds later, flashing a shot narrowly wide when he might have done better to notice Balotelli in space to his left.

It seemed just a matter of time before the home side opened the scoring, yet Wigan wasted a glorious chance to take a surprise lead when James McCarthy fired high and wide on the half-hour. The City defence initially seemed to have taken care of a threatening run by Victor Moses, only for Vincent Kompany to give the ball away in his own penalty area when he had a chance to clear. A pass from a colleague could not have presented McCarthy with a clearer sight of goal or a more inviting opening, yet the Wigan midfielder rushed his shot when composure was needed.

If Roberto Martinez was disappointed by that, he looked positively crestfallen at what happened next. His defence parted like a flimsy curtain to allow City a goal that was barely deserved, at least in the manner of its scoring. First Adrian Lopez slipped as he came across to challenge David Silva, allowing his compatriot space to shoot, then al-Habsi let a fairly ordinary effort through his hands and then his legs to trickle over the goalline. It was hardly an auspicious moment for Lopez, making his Premier League debut, though if al-Habsi was guilty of making the most basic goalkeeping error -- not getting anything behind the ball -- Latics can hardly point the finger, given the number of times he has come to their rescue this season.

Wigan were unlucky at the start of the second half when Alcaraz's sidefoot volley struck a post from Ben Watson's corner. The visitors' attack predictably improved as soon as Charles N'Zogbia came on for the last half hour and Joe Hart had to make a sharp save to keep out a goalbound effort from McCarthy from the edge of the area.

Mancini responded by withdrawing Balotelli. Not for Edin Dzeko, as might have been expected, but for an extra midfielder in Aleksandar Kolarov.

Wigan could not be faulted for endeavour, but do not appear to carry the goal threat to escape their predicament. City do have potent strikers, they just sometimes choose to keep them well hidden. Like Mrs Toure should have done with her slimming pills.


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