Manchester City 1 Wigan Athletic 0 match report: Wigan dealt a relegation blow after Carlos Tevez strikes late in FA Cup final dress rehearsal

City were at times lethargic

the Etihad Stadium

The litter skittering across the turf was a metaphor for Manchester City who, before Carlos Tevez's lustrous winner, provided plenty of evidence as to why Manchester United's little slip-up shouldn't send any spirits soaring. But the real story of this night was provided by Wigan Athletic, a club who refuse to be yet another from the old county of Lancashire to retreat from the Premier League and into decline.

It is a strange kind of tension which currently besets them, as they talk on the one hand of the FA Cup final for which this match was the rehearsal, and yet peer anxiously at their 7/4 relegation odds - the general impression among the bookies that they are no more for this world. Yet against a side who had only dropped nine points here all this season, they went 75 minutes before conceding a shot on goal and their manager Roberto Martinez was the one who could speak of players who were “magnificent, from start to finish.” He was talking about James McCarthy, Shaun Maloney and Jordi Gomez and if his strikers had only shown a little more gumption when presented with their chances, the team might be a little closer today to the triumvirate of sides - Aston Villa, Stoke City and Sunderland - whom they trail by three points with one game in hand and six teams (including Spurs and Arsenal) to play. Tevez provided the game's solitary moment of champion class and his best goal of the 17 he has scored in this 2012/13 campaign: a shimmering run between Paul Scharner and Jordo Gomez to curl a shot in at goalkeeper Joel Robles' near post.

The two managers were unanimous that Wigan deserved more from the game and Martinez said they deserved all three points. “They don't deserve to be relegated. For sixty minutes they played better than us and then we played well in the final 25 minutes,” Mancini said. “We have been working for three or four years to be able to produce a performance like we did here,” Martinez declared. “Now we have to learn how to win at places like this. The lesson is that, when you play well, you really need to win the game.”

The City manager was unhappy about Robin van Persie's second equalising goal for Manchester United at West Ham. “If they didn't score an offside goal probably we would be nine (points behind),” he said. But the empty seats told of a side for who this Premier League season is over and the best it got for those who harbour title hopes was the supressed form of excitement - a low rumble rather than anything close to exuberance - when the scoreboard flashed up West Ham's early 1-0 lead.

The tension and the sense of occasion belonged to Wigan. Some clubs in the lower reaches write off all hope for this kind of fixture but it was a year ago this week that they won 2-1 at Arsenal, part of the run of seven wins from nine which save them from relegation in a way that will never be forgotten in their town. Martinez wears lucky brown shoes - always has done as a manager - but he likes to think he can call on more than luck these days. Wigan were seeking to make it four games undefeated for the first time this season. Spring time has a habit of being their time.

What ensued could hardly be described as an assault on the Premier League hierarchy, though Martinez's team certainly could have been 2-0 up inside about 60 seconds, when they fired the first half into life, just before the 40-minute mark. The first miss was agonising enough - their Ivorian top scorer Aroun Kone kicked the ball into his own leg after a typically accurate lofted ball from the right by Maloney sailed over Samir Nasri's head and found Kone with time on his hands to finish. But the second was desperately unfortunate. Franco di Santo, a striker severely low on self-confidence and who had not played since March 2, eased the ball past Joleon Lescott and Javi Garcia in one sweeping movement and when the Argentine paused to finish with side-footed accuracy he handed Joe Hart the chance to dive and save with a strong left hand.

“The disappointment is that we didn't have the belief in front of goal and that is the lesson we need to learn,” lamented Martinez. Di Santo also wriggled into the left hand side of the City box, only to measure a poor cross behind Kone. Di Santo's four years of northern toil, attempting at Blackburn before Wigan to prove that Chelsea were wrong to dispense with him, must surely be reaching their natural end.

Mancini chopped and changed in search of answers.  Edin Dzeko started the second half in place of Aguero and it was the Italian's usual Plan B - three at the back - which came out of box. Garcia, Vincent Kompany and Lescott formed the rearguard, though in 15 minutes or so it was a back four again and Garcia was off. Lescott cleared off the line from Maloney but it was inevitable that the City momentum would come. Robles saved well at the feet of Dzeko on 75 minutes and McCarthy dealt with the danger Tevez slalomed in through the defence. Seven minutes remained when the dam was burst by Tevez, one of the few at City for whom this season is better than last. Wigan being Wigan it could all come down to their last game of the season, at home to Villa, but Martinez won't countenance the idea of it all falling to one last roll of the dice.

Man of the match Maloney.

Match rating 6/10.

Referee J Moss (Tyne & Wear).

Attendance 47,106.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Sport
Rodgers showered praise on Balotelli last week, which led to speculation he could sign the AC Milan front man
transfers
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music(who aren't Arctic Monkeys)
News
Lizards, such as Iguanas (pictured), have a unique pattern of tissue growth
science
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home