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- 18 October 2009 18:38
- Posted by Peter Ferguson
Sometimes you have to be grateful for what you get. Maybe the Wigan hoodoo did strike again at the DW Stadium, but at least City's ten men came away with a precious Premier League point.
Alan Wiley had a fat chance of avoiding the spotlight after a week that seriously inflated his profile, and sending off Pablo Zabaleta for two yellow cards made him a big talking point again.
The referee's decision to book the defender for a first-half foul on Maynor Figueroa looked harsh even to neutrals; he had no option when Zaby took Jason Scotland's legs 25 minutes from time.
Zabaleta was furious. Mark Hughes too, probably. With 11 men for the final stages, the odds would surely have favoured City to topple their jinx team and return to fourth spot in the table.
But they had to be satisfied with fifth and another fine finish from Martin Petrov, who stepped in for injured Craig Bellamy to produce a nice equaliser and a performance to back his claims.
Frustrated fans' favourite "Rigsby", who scored twice for Bulgaria in midweek, believes he is worthy of a starting place even when Bellamy is fit, and his hunger works to Hughes' advantage.
So too does the quality squad that the manager has been able to assemble, for even with several absences, he was able to throw on Stephen Ireland and Roque Santa Cruz in a late bid for victory.
City were initially set up to keep it tight on a ground where they have never won, with a centre midfield pairing of Gareth Barry and Nigel de Jong that left no room for Ireland's more creative skills.
And tight it was, right until the first minute that referee Wiley added to a first half that had not seen Shay Given too troubled on the day he took the captaincy in Kolo Toure's absence.
Hugo Rodallega had rarely threatened despite his propensity to shoot on sight and from any range, and when he did launch one properly after 37 minutes, Given's flying two-fisted save was superb.
But it was the Colombian who finally undid the Blues just as they were anticipating that half-time cuppa, drilling in a clever low cross-shot from the left that Given was forced to parry at full stretch.
N'Zogbia stretched just as meaningfully at the far post to get an inch ahead of Wayne Bridge's desperate challenge and prod the ball into the net in front of City's travelling army.
It was a cruel blow in as much as Hughes' men had looked the likelier to score, with Shaun Wright-Phillips a lively and difficult opponent for Wigan's hard-pressed defence.
The England winger, a scorer in midweek at Wembley, was caught marginally offside as he locked onto the sweetest pass of the first half from Carlos Tevez, and later delivered the super cross that Mario Melchiot chested for a corner with Barry about to pounce.
Emmanuel Adebayor, inevitably the focus for home fans, should have done better with his chance during that best City spell midway through the half, but he needed time and Chris Kirkland rescued his muddled defenders.
Wigan's DJ raised a smile by playing the Four Seasons' "Let's Hang On To What We've Got" as City's players trudged towards the dressing-room. But whatever Hughes and his staff said at the interval, it had more effect than Franki Valli.
In City's first attack on the restart, Tevez crossed from the right, SWP dummied and Petrov let the ball run across him in the area before despatching his second League goal of the season.
Then came the tackle of the game from Titus Bramble as Adebayor surged into Wigan's area after 52 minutes. There was no room for miscalculation with a red card and penalty waiting, but Bramble's precision challenge was followed by a great Kirkland save from SWP's follow-up.
Another City win looked on the cards for a spell. But once an angry Zabaleta had walked, survival and a point were suddenly more acceptable as Vinnie Kompany came on for the limping Adebayor.
Wright-Phillips had a genuine claim for a penalty against Figueroa, who had already been booked, before making way for Ireland after 82 minutes while Tevez, who had run himself ragged, was replaced by Santa Cruz.