Carlos treble flatters borish Blues

A soggy Eastlands tonight played host to an even damper display by City, who somehow came away having beaten a brave Wigan side by three goals. A twelve minute Carlos Tevez hat-trick sees us back up to fifth, and whilst job well done we again did the business at home without playing at all like a team worthy of Champions League football.

Roberto decided to risk wholesale changes to the side which lost against Everton last week. Craig Bellamy, Gareth Barry and Micah Richards were all relegated to the bench, and Stevie Ireland's shin injury meant he didn't make the squad. Javi Garrido came in, with Pablo Zabaleta moving back to the right. Pat Vieira partnered Nigel de Jong in a central two, with Adam Johnson and Shaun Wright-Phillips wide and Emmanuel Adebayor returning after his four-match ban.

Wigan lined up in a 4-5-1 as expected, with top scorer Hugo Rodallega left and promising youngster James McCarthy right of lone striker Marcelo Moreno. Diame, Thomas and Scharner formed a physical central three, with Serbian 'keeper Vladimir Stojkovic replacing Chris Kirkland in the only change from their recent 1-0 victory over Burnley.

The first half never really got going and in the end we were treated to more of the same old drab fayre we're slowing beginning to get used to at Eastlands as the flowing football that not so long back was earning us plaudits seems a dim and distant memory. The first half-chance came on ten minutes, Johnson finding Tevez down the left and his cross picking out Ade in the area but Bramble doing well to block. Tevez then forced a great stop from the stand-in goalkeeper, on the end of a great one-two with SWP. It never really got much better.

Though Wigan didn't have a clear-cut chance themselves they were certainly more confident in possession, Rodallega working the left channel well and Moreno proving an effective target in attack. Our defending was rushed and nervy, and as was our undoing against Everton, not to mention several other games this season, we were constantly lethargic picking people up from set-pieces. A last-ditch tackle from SWP prevented Rodallega making more of his unchallenged run in from wide, Given eventually tipping wide.

On the half-hour Vincent Kompany elbowed Rodallega in the jaw and was lucky to escape punishment. Moreno's free-kick was straight at the wall but Scharner's half-volley from the edge of the area forced a great stop from Shay. As the half ground to a halt and most struggled to stay awake, the home fans frustrations became more obvious as Patrick Vieira began to look every bit his fifty-three years, pass after pass woefully adrift of blue shirts.

Mancini bowed to public pressure and introduced Bellamy at the break, Sean Wright-Phillips making way after becoming less effective once moved to the left. Early on we looked bright, and the passing more crisp, occasionally even accurate. Vieira found Johnson who spotted the run of Tevez infield, the Argentinian unleashing a shot that rebounded off Stojkovic for Adebayor to prod home, but he was a yard off and it was correctly ruled out.

In the fiftieth minute Johnson went on a mesmerising run, his twinkle toes somehow preventing the ball going out for a throw and him then making the beating of four men look like playground stuff. Caldwell could have been penalised for handballing inside the area, one of around a dozen penalty shouts we had, almost all fanciful, and at the other end Rodallega's pace almost caught us out.

The game changed ten minutes into the second half, Caldwell's horrid start to his Wigan career continued as he was given his marching orders for a foul on Tevez. It was clearly mistimed, high and dangerous but probably not deserving off a sending-off, and though it certainly worked in our favour it summed up the official's evening quite well, as he was repeatedly off with decisions.

Still, down to ten men Wigan soldiered on, and could have taken the lead on the hour, Moreno exquisitely controlling a long ball from Scharner with one foot, splitting our centre-halves, and crashing a left-pegged volley just wide of Given's goal. The big Bolivian worked his socks off all night, and if Wigan can keep him, Rodallega and N'Zogbia fit i don't envisage they'll be lured into the battle just below them.

Both our full-backs were booked before the opening goal, and both were correct decisions. Garrido scythed down Rodallega on the halfway line, then Zabaleta blocked his man after being beaten for pace and will now serve a two-game ban having accumulated ten yellows.

The breakthrough came eighteen minutes from time, a move leading to a hopeful Vieira prod through, the hapless Serbian sticksman unwilling to put his body on the line due to a high Adebayor foot, and Tevez notching his nineteenth in as many games. It should have been two within a minute, Carlos lobbing over the Wigan defence to Adebayor, but he dwelled on it and Scharner made a good late block.

Before long it was two-nil, Tevez again. A corner was laid back to Garrido, the stand-in full-back sailed a cross in low, Vincent Kompany backheeled across goal and Tevez finished with ease at the far post. Not a lot else of note happened before Carlito had bagged his second treble in City colours, some great closing down from Johnson, a ball down the right channel to El Apache who took Scharner one way and the other before effortlessly beating Stojkovic at his far post.

Someone who didn't watch this evening's performance could be given the impression it was relatively comfortable. Not so. For the most part we were bloody awful. Three points and a clean sheet can't be sniffed at, but there was very little endearing about another soulless home display. The main point of concern was again the central midfield, which just doesn't seem to be working whichever formation or personnel the manager tries. For most of the game there was a forty yard gap between the midfield and attack, meaning our threat off second balls was virtually nil.

More than that, the general standard of passing was well below par, the bar set alarmingly low by Vieira. He did improve, and played a part later on, but at times it was as if he was blindfolded, and whilst you can understand a player losing pace with age he should still be able to spot a pass and even occasionally execute it. There's an obvious lack of creativity through the centre, something we often get away with due to moments of magic by Tevez or Bellamy. The former salvaged us tonight, but in possession we're a mile of a Spurs side that are so much easier on the eye.

Bottom line is a win's a win, and we'll take them every week until the end of the season irrespective of performance. The lack of confidence in the side is quite discouraging, though, and for all the money spent we don't look like a team, a side, a set of players pulling in one direction. The season as a whole has been peculiar, on the verge of our best finish in years it really feels like a bit of a damp squib. Let's not procrastinate for too long, however, we needed to win and we did. Well done, just.

Given, Zabaleta, Garrido (Sylvinho '88), Toure, Kompany, de Jong, Wright-Phillips (Bellamy '46), Vieira, Tevez (Onuoha '88), Adebayor, A.Johnson


  1. Wigan fan here - Very fair assessment of the game and well written. Shame it didn't stay 11 on 11...it was shaping up as a really even contest.

  2. A very accurate summing up.We were awful for most of the game and i am not sure what style of football Mancini is supposed to be getting the team to play,but he needs to look at it again because this was dross.

    I think the team looking disjointed is down to Mancini constantly changing it.Most managers know their best eleven and stick with it,not keep chopping and changing.That said it is not all his fault and the men in charge at the top need to look long and hard at themselves.

    Mark Hughes came into the club at a time of massive change.He had to build a team almost from scratch,the owners and chairman all agreeing it would take time.We were in the semi finals of the Carling cup and in contention for fourth place in the league.We were playing some of the best football seen in ages.Yes there was the odd blip here and there but given the bedding in of so many players at once that was understandable.As things weren't broken it was madness to try and fix it and change managers after half a season.

    The team had to then get used to a different manager,coaches,ideas and formations.Again this takes time.I think it is a miracle given all this that with seven games to go we are still in contention for fourth spot.

    The loss of Lescott and Bridge has been a huge blow.We had just started to look solid at the back and we are now back to the nervy naive defending that gives us all ulcers.

    The midfield is too one paced and like for like with little creativity.One thing is for sure and that is Vieira is well past it.Too slow,not mobile and his passing has gone too.

    Up front we have plenty of options but Carlos keeping fit is vital.Without him we look like we will never score.I think we are more effective with him as a lone striker rather than playing with Adebayor,but time will tell.

    Despite all the negatives the fact is we are still in with a shout of fourth spot with seven games to go.If we can keep important players fit and hopefully get one or two injured players back we might just do it.

    On a final note the fans need to raise the roof and lift the team instead of getting on the players backs.I get as frustrated as the next person but when the game is in a lull we need to generate some energy and a spark.Last night was at times like being at a wake.Come on you blues!!

    This is Paul by the way,the way this is set up i come on as anonymous.

  3. Froma Wigan fan, may I say that was an excellent and balanced review.

    Its difficult to understand how we can play so well and come away with nothing, but perhaps thats the par of the course with a needless sending off and a useless keeper in your side.

  4. Cheers for the kind words mate. Saw you're feature in the programme as well. Top stuff. And I've been in contact with Chris Nield about having our own page each on the Official website. Your thoughts on that? Cheers. Lloyd

  5. tevez 3 wigan 0