Good Kompany but little to tempt Kaka

Manchester City 1 Wigan Athletic 0
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The Independent Football

"Knowing me, knowing you... Kaka" was the gleeful chant echoing outside Eastlands early on Saturday afternoon and though that might be a possibility in the rich man's world which Manchester City have come to occupy, the kind of qualities they most need to buy were on display rather closer to home than Milan.

Wilson Palacios will be a more valuable immediate addition to City than anyone £91m can buy, if City managing director Paul Aldridge, whose time spent texting on Saturday afternoon summed up the club's current whirlwind of activity, manages to sign him.

Palacios's last game for Wigan, with a two-match suspension to serve now, was typical of so many, the Honduran dominating midfield like a bull and distributing with unnerving accuracy. Such are the sources of Premier League success, as Steve Bruce identified on Saturday night. "You've got to build a team as well as buy a team," Bruce said. "It's all right going out and buying the best players in the world, but a team always needs a balance. It needs a few Indians in there because you can't have a team full of chiefs."

For sure, awkward afternoons against Wigan will not be part of the sales pitch to Kaka's father, Bosco Leite, in Lombardy early this week and probably won't crop up in conversation with Robinho, either. The £32m man scuffed a gilt-edged chance to send City ahead in the first 10 minutes and, though his giddying run through Wigan's midfield began the period of play which ended with Pablo Zabaleta thumping in a volley to seal the points, much of his afternoon was spent in theatrical pursuit of free kicks.

Proof, if it were really needed, that the economics of football are less than predictable where record signings are concerned. Hughes, who badly needs a striker, can at least take comfort in the way some of his less glamorous targets are showing an appetite. Wayne Bridge, on his debut, dealt well with Antonio Valencia and, before Richard Dunne's dismissal, offered glimpses of the pace he will provide down City's left flank.



Vincent Kompany provided evidence, too, that he is a future City captain, the defence more convincing once he had moved to the centre of it when Dunne had paid the price for his irritable kick at Amr Zaki – the Irishman's third dismissal since last May.

Zabaleta delivered his best display since following Kompany to Eastlands, a rugged central midfield performance to go with that volley which took City to 11th. Zabaleta knows City are in need of workaday qualities. "Mark Hughes is looking for players with character, strong players," he said. But the Argentine's view that City will be "fighting for the league and playing in Europe in a short space of time" is a questionable one. Just as well, in the circumstances, that Manchester United's match at Bolton – and not City's – was the one widely available on TV sets in Milan, should Kaka have been watching on Saturday afternoon.

Goals Zabaleta (53) 1-0.

Manchester City (4-3-3): Hart; Richards, Dunne, Ohuoha, Bridge; Zabaleta, Kompany, Elano; Wright-Phillips, Sturridge (Garrido, 68), Robinho. Substitutes not used: Schmeichel (gk), Vassell, Jo, Fernandes, Caicedo, Weiss.

Wigan Athletic (4-4-2): Kirkland; Melchiot, Scharner, Bramble (Camara, 87), Figueroa (Kapo, 71); Valencia, Cattermole, Palacios, Taylor (De Ridder, 58); Zaki, Heskey. Substitutes not used: Kingson (gk), Brown, Boyce, Edman.

Referee: L Mason (Lancashire).

Booked: Manchester City Robinho; Wigan Athletic Cattermole, Bramble, Palacios, Kirkland.

Sent Off: Dunne (54).

Man of the match: Zabaleta.

Attendance: 41,262.

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