MAN CITY 1, WIGAN ATHLETIC 0.
Carlos Tevez ended the brave resistance of Wigan Athletic with a late match-winning goal for Manchester City.
The striker struck the only goal of the game in the 83rd minute to end a frustrating night in what was a dress rehearsal for next month’s final of the FA Cup.
Until the late intervention of Tevez, it had been a laboured display by City three days after they booked their return to Wembley with a semi-final victory against Chelsea.
Manager Roberto Mancini blamed fatigue saying: “It is only three days since we played Chelsea and we spent a lot of energy against Chelsea which is why I brought in five new players.
“I think for 60 minutes Wigan were better than us and they had chances to score. In the last 25 minutes we played well and had three or four chances to score.
“They probably didn’t deserve to lose and I think Wigan will stay up because they always try to play football and Roberto Martinez is a good manager.”
While City cut United’s lead at the top of the table from 15 to 13 points with a game in hand, it was cruel on Wigan who are in desperate need of points to stave off the threat of relegation from the Premier League.
Martinez cited wayward finishing for their loss at the Etihad Stadium.
He said: We created four good chances from open play which not many teams do here. The fact we didn’t finish them is why we lost.
“I was proud of our performance and the players deserve credit. If we continue to play like that to the end of the season, we will pick up a lot of points.”
City made it seven straight victories against Wigan in which the Latics have failed to score a goal, but the latest win was no formality.
Mancini’s side lived dangerously as Wigan had by far the better chances and they were desperately unlucky to leave the Etihad Stadium empty handed.
City made five changes from their Wembley starting line up as there were recalls for Joe Hart, the fit-again Micah Richards, Joleon Lescott, Javier Garcia and Sergio Aguero.
They replaced Costel Pantilimon, Pablo Zabaleta, Matija Nastasic, Gael Clichy and James Milner.
It was a strangely subdued opening half hour in which the only scoring chance fell to Aleksandar Kolarov whose 25-yard free kick whistled past the upright.
Indeed, the biggest cheer came when news filtered through that Manchester United were losing 1-0 at West Ham.
Wigan had a great chance to take the lead in the 37th minute when Shaun Maloney’s back heel released Franco Di Santo who was clear through only for Hart to dash from his line to make a brilliant block.
Maloney had another great chance to give Wigan the lead soon after the restart when he cut in from the left and beat Hart only for Lescott to save the day for City with a goalline clearance.
There were another half chance for Wigan as Aroune Kone’s shot was blocked by Vincent Kompany as Wigan were the livelier side as City continued to labour.
It became increasingly frustrating for City who lacked their recent spark as Wigan remained on the front foot, substitute Callum McManaman forcing a diving save from Hart.
City substitute Edin Dzeko burst through on goal only for Paul Scharner to make a last-gasp block.
The breakthrough finally came with seven minutes left when Tevez ended a fluent move as he cut in from the left and fired an unstoppable shot high into the top corner of the net.