Balotelli 69, Milner 73
- Matchday centre
- Match reports
- 28 November 2012 21:50
- Posted by David Clayton
City made it 20 Premier League games without defeat with a 2-0 win at Wigan.
Second-half goals from Mario Balotelli and James Milner secured a hard-fought victory over a stubborn home side.
The hosts had enjoyed the better chances on a bitterly cold evening at the DW Stadium before the Blues, far from their best, finally broke the deadlock through Balotelli midway through the second period.
Less than five minutes after that substitute Milner added a stunning second before hobbling off injured. It patience and sheer doggedness that finally did the trick – the stuff of which champions are made.
With Mario the unwanted holder of the Premier League striker with most shots on target – 23 – without finding the net, this surely was the perfect platform to really kick-start his season.
Maicon and Javi Garcia were also drafted back into the starting line-up as the Blues attempted to extend an unbeaten run that started last April against West Brom – the very same evening Wigan were beating United to blow the title race wide open when all seemed lost.
The first-half of this contest was largely forgettable with some sloppy passing from both sides prevented any real flowing moves or genuine chances for the Blues and the Latics perhaps just edged proceedings going into the break.
City waited until first half injury time to really test Ali Al Habsi with Yaya Toure muscling his way into the box from a tight angle before firing in a low drive which the host keeper saved at his near post – with virtually the last kick.
Wigan had looked lively down the flanks but Joe Hart wasn’t called upon to make any saves of note.
The Blues started the second period looking more potent and were a shade unlucky not be awarded a penalty when Gareth Barry had his shirt tugged at least twice as he tried to connect with Yaya’s tempting cross into the six-yard box.
Then Balotelli headed wide from close range from Aguero’s deep cross – it seemed playing in front of the travelling 4,500 City fans was lifting the players – either that or Mancini had given his troops the hairdryer treatment at the break!
Despite the improvement, Wigan should have opened the scoring on 56 minutes when a totally unmarked Arouna Kone found himself with just Hart to beat as Ronnie Stam’s cross came in, but thankfully he somehow missed the target by a few inches.
The Blues were looking second best again as the home side gradually built up a head of steam as they continually found space behind the midfield holding pair of Barry and Garcia – the latter was withdrawn and replaced with James Milner just past the hour-mark as Mancini shuffled his pack before his team fell behind.
And when Aleks Kolarov replaced Aguero on 67 minutes, there were one or two jeers from the travelling faithful – but they needn’t have worried because within 60 seconds, City, at last, took the lead.
Barry fired a low drive in from 20 yards which Al Habsi parried and Balotelli ensured he was first to the loose ball, firing in one shot that was saved but making no mistake with his second attempt which gave the keeper no chance.
The relief was tangible and four minutes later, Milner doubled the lead with a thunderous of a shot into the top corner from the edge of the box sending the travelling Blues wild and secured three hard-earned points in the process.