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Man City 1 – 0 Wigan Athletic

‘Gritty, backs-to-the-wall, robust, stubborn and hard-working’ aren’t words you normally associate with Man City, but at Eastlands this afternoon, all those characteristics were shown in abundance by the Blues. A Pablo Zabaleta strike early in the second-half proved to be the winner, and although Richard Dunne was sent off almost immediately, City hung on for a memorable victory.

Team News

Blues boss Mark Hughes made a number of changes to the City side which started against Notts Forest in the FA Cup. Wayne Bridge made his debut at left-back, Nedum Onuoha was handed a rare opportunity in defence, Brazilian superstar Robinho returned after injury, whilst winger Shaun Wright-Phillips recovered from his injury to start. Argentinean defender Pablo Zabaleta was forced to start in central midfield alongside Vincent Kompany due to other injuries, which meant that Micah Richards was pushed to right-back, a position which many feel is his best.

                                                      Hart

Richards             Dunne                                     Onuoha               Bridge

                         Zabaleta                                   Kompany                   

SWP                                              Elano                                       Robinho

                                                  Sturridge

Subs: Schmeichel, Garrido, Weiss, Fer******, Vassell, Jo(ke), Caicedo

Can I just add that the real reason City won the game was because the team that started against Wigan was exactly the same one that I played in the preview, except for SWP in for Garrido. If I had known that SWP was going to be fit, then that would have been the exact same team 🙂

Slovakian youngster Vladimir Weiss was named on the bench for the first time

Game 

The home side started the game strongly, with Robinho having a couple of fantastic chances to open the scoring. The first one came after 11 minutes when Elano played a glorious through-ball directly into Robinho’s path, but as the Brazilian bore down on goal, Wigan’s Austrian defender Paul Scharner got back and forced Robinho to put the shot wide. Moments later, Robinho was in on goal again after another pass from Elano. This time, he delicately lifted the ball over the oncoming Chris Kirkland, only to see error-prone defender Titus Bramble on the line to hack the ball away. City continued to press, and young English striker Danny Sturridge headed over the bar from a tight angle after a cross from the right. Wigan’s soon-to-depart midfielder Wilson Palacios tested Joe Hart with a couple of long range efforts, but City looked comfortable going in at the break.

After half-time, City continued where they had left off, and the first goal arrived after 54 minutes, when Pablo Zabaleta smashed in his first strike for the club from just outside the area following a Daniel Sturridge cross. The Argentinean looked thrilled with the effort, and the goal boosted the atmosphere around the ground. However, within 60 seconds of the game restarting, City did the usual City thing and shot themselves in the foot. Captain Richard Dunne competed in the air for a header with Wigan’s Egyptian striker Amr Zaki, and as both men lay on the floor, Dunne seemed to kick out at the forward. Referee Lee Mason was standing only yards away and immediately brandished a red card for the skipper. In the ensuing reshuffle, Belgian international Vincent Kompany moved into the centre of defence to partner Nedum Onuoha and on came Javier ‘I met his parents – aren’t I lucky’ Garrido in place of Sturridge. The Blues had to play for the rest of the game, around 35 minutes, without their inspirational captain.

Zabaleta celebrates scoring his first goal for the club

For the next half an hour, it was like the siege of the Alamo. Wigan piled the pressure onto City, throwing not just the kitchen sink at the Blues, but also the fridge and the oven!! Elano, now playing more defensively, cleared a header off the line, while Scharner also went close following a corner. With time running out, Amr Zaki was gifted a glorious opportunity to claim an equaliser. After a Lee Cattermole header bounced off the crossbar with Joe Hart stranded, the ball fell kindly for Zaki, just three yards out to head the ball into an open goal. However, somehow the striker contrived to put his finish over the bar, an effort which even Darius Vassell would have been proud of. The away side continued to apply pressure and should, in my opinion, have had two penalties, when Elano handled in the box and when Zabaleta seemed to catch Cattermole as the midfielder tried to shoot. Fortunately the referee failed to see the infringements and City had been let off the hook. There was still time for more drama, when, after Kirkland had come up for a Wigan corner in the dying seconds, the ball fell to Elano 55 yards out, but the Brazilian couldn’t direct his effort and the shot trickled wide. The final whistle went shortly after and the Blues claimed a hard-fought, battling three points.

Elano battles with Palacios for the ball

Key Battles

Wayne Bridge ‘v’ Luis Antonio Valencia

Bridge was excellent on his debut for City although as the game wore on his lack of match practice was evident and Valencia started to become more involved. Overall, the City defender controlled the tricky winger well. Winner = Bridge

Pablo Zabaleta ‘v’ Maynor Figueroa

Unfortunately, this contest never took place, as the Argentinean played in a more central midfield role. He did get on the scoresheet however, whilst Figueroa was kept busy with Wright-Phillips. Winner = Zabaleta

Richard Dunne and Nedum Onuoha ‘v’ Emile Heskey and Amr Zaki

Onuoha was magnificent at the heart of the defence, as was Dunne until his sending off. Both Heskey and Zaki caused some problems but not as many as they would have wanted. Winners = Dunne and Onuoha

Player Ratings

Hart – A safe and sound performance from the young goalkeeper, including a couple of good punches and saves – 7

Richards – Prefers right-back position and it showed. A huge improvement on his performances at centre-half. Got forward well and looked secure at the back – 8

Dunne – Stupid sending off, but until then, looked very assured. Will be missed for the next four games – 6

Onuoha – Brilliant showing from the youngster. Not a regular for the Blues, but will be if he carries on playing like that – 9

Bridge – Efficient debut from the former Chelsea man. Got forward well, especially in the first half but tired towards the end – 8

SWP – Only passed fit on the morning of the match, and put in a hard-working shift – 7

Zabaleta – Unusual position in the centre of the park, and in the first-half, looked poor but what an improvement after the break!! Attacked more and scored crucial goal. When Dunne was sent-off, he put in a captain’s shift, working so hard in defence and clinging on for the win – 9

Kompany – Yet again he continues to impress. Did sound job in midfield, but looked even better with Onuoha in defence. Got his head to everything and will probably stay in defence for a while – 9

Elano – A revelation. Never seen him work so hard. Was superb in first-half, creating chances for Robinho, and then again in second-half when he dropped a bit deeper – 9.5

Robinho – Was a threat all afternoon, even when he played up-front on his own. Should have scored a couple but and needs to work on his left foot – 8

Sturridge – Hard work for him against Bramble and Scharner, but tried his best to hold the ball up. Will benefit from playing alongside someone – 6.5

Subs:

Garrido – How slow did he look!! Was not match fit and was bypassed by on countless occassions by Valencia – 4

Man of the Match – Elano

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. I*T*P*L*

    17 January, 2009 at 22:25

    Good result for you today, though it sounded like Wigan deserved more. Was Zaki’s miss really as bad as Kamara made out? He said it was the worst he had ever seen if you didn’t hear it.

    I’m quite dissappointed Dunne will miss the Stoke game, as I feel we could have exploited his lack of pace nicely.

    The ”former MGS boy” had a good game i see.

  2. Lionel Messi is Darius Vassell

    17 January, 2009 at 22:35

    It was a fantastic result for us. It’s not often we grind out wins. That was the first time this season we have failed to win by more than three goals. That was a Mark Hughes’s team performance.

    It’s a shame Dunne will miss some games. He is quicker than he looks and is massively influential for us. Though Kompany is a more than able replacement. Hopefully, we’ll have more players signed by the time we play you.

    ”The former MGS boy” was outstanding today. He should play more often. He’s one of those ‘defensive’ defenders – someone who loves to defend, like Terry or Vidic.

  3. Ched Evans I LOVE YOU!

    18 January, 2009 at 21:53

    Hi Steven,

    Went to the game, bitten through all my fingers nails after that nervy last 40 mins!

    Zabalata…now do you see why he is my favourite player? He was simply world-class.

    Although i believe there is one player who deserves a lot more credit than people have given him. Im pleased you recognised this, Onouha was outstanding too, very assured and i’m pleased he will be given a chance with Dunne now suspended.

    We need to get rid of Dunne, Richards proved he is a good player, Dunne is a liability. Bridge played very very well too, although goes into tackles a bit quickly, just like Garrido who i must say, had a mare, but i;m putting that down to lack of matches played.

    Sturridge was poor, should have played Chedwyn!

    Who is the former MGS boy by the way?

    Whats the Spanish oral on tomorrow?????!
    Matt

  4. Lionel Messi is Darius Vassell

    18 January, 2009 at 22:04

    Hi Matt,

    It was one of the most exciting games I’ve been too recently. Last half an hour was brilliant.

    Can I just say that you hated Zabaleta after his first game against Chelsea. It was me who reassured you that he would be good. He was awesome yesterday, although, as much as I would like to see Onuoha stay in defence, I can see Hughes putting Kompany and Richards there, Zabaleta at right back, and buying De Jong or Palacios. I would prefer to see Kompany and Onuoha in defence, with Zabaleta at right back.

    It was tough for Sturridge on his own against Bramble and Scharner, but he tried hard. Not convinced by Chedwyn, heard he’s going out on loan to Celtic?!?!?!?

    The former MGS boy is Onuoha. It’s a little maths class joke, with me and VJ, becuase David Saerle thought that Nedum went to MGS, but it turns out he went to Cheadle Hulme.

    Haven’t a clue what the Spanish is on. Julio Garrido will probably speak too fas anyway. Do we have any Spanish vocab to learn???

    Steven

  5. plattsy

    19 January, 2009 at 20:04

    Nice report Ste-dog.

    Dunne is mental. Give Kompany the armband.

    GLad we finally grafted out a one – goal win, but would like to see another 6-0 soon… it’ll probably only cost us about £103 mil…

    What are your views on Bellamy? I’m not too sure to be honest..

  6. Lionel Messi is Darius Vassell

    19 January, 2009 at 21:37

    Bellamy … not happy

    I’m not a big fan of him as a player or as a person. He always seems to be a disruptive influence on a team so I’m yet to be convinced. But I will give him my backing and fully support him 🙂

  7. MGS

    24 January, 2009 at 22:32

    Nedum went to Hulme Grammar School for Boys in Oldham not Cheadle Hulme

  8. CHED EVANS I LOVE YOU!!

    25 January, 2009 at 15:34

    Yes we know he did, it’s called a joke?!

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