It wasn't pretty and hardly deserved, but Manchester City managed to escape with a 1-0 win over Wigan on Wednesday afternoon. After Manchester United's 2-2 draw against West Ham, City now sits 13 points behind the Red Devils with six games remaining (and a game in hand).
Carlos Tevez was the hero in this game, as his 83rd-minute goal on a fine individual effort gave City a win on an evening when it delivered far from its best performance.
Wigan would come out very aggressive in this game, but the City defense would hold. The offense wasn't as solid, however, as City's best opportunity early was a deep ball over the top of the Wigan defense that was just too long for Sergio Aguero to control.
City was lackadaisical for the first 20 minutes, but the home side would pick up its intensity as the first half progressed.
Wigan looked to have a solid scoring chance with Franco Di Santo free on the left side of the box and just one defender back, but his centering pass went behind Arouna Koné and the opportunity was lost. Wigan was clearly the aggressor, however, and the City defense was put to the test.
Joe Hart would save the home side in the 36th minute, as Shaun Maloney played Di Santo into the box with a lovely back-heel pass, but a sprawling Hart would deny him a goal. City would then stream forward on the counterattack, but Carlos Tevez's centering pass slid just past the outstretched foot of Aguero.
Wigan certainly looked like a team desperate to remain in the Premier League next season, while City looked like a side disinterested in a league game with the championship all but out of reach.
Wigan was the better team early in the second half as well despite tactical changes from City, which replaced Aguero with Edin Dzeko and changed to a three-man back line. Maloney nearly scored after beating both Micah Richards and Hart, but Joleon Lescott cleared away the attempt on goal.
Trying to regain momentum, City would change back into a back four just minutes after attempting to play with a back three. 60 minutes into the game, City was a mess and lucky to be holding onto a scoreless draw.
Callum McManaman found space and ripped a shot toward goal in the 75th minute, but it was saved by Hart. A minute later, Toure would play Edin Dzeko into the box with a wonderful pass, but Dzeko's shot was smothered by Wigan keeper Joel Robles.
Of course, after being outplayed for 83 minutes and looking like a team that deserved to lose, it was City that would score the game's first and only goal. Tevez created some room in the box and blasted home the go-ahead goal past the outstretched arms of Robles.
Sometimes, talent simply shines through.
You have to feel bad for a Wigan side that truly deserved more than this result. Still, there's a reason Wigan is battling to avoid relegation and sits in 18th place, while City is second on the table.
Yaya Toure, Manchester City: C
Why was Toure dropping so deep in this game? Where was the player that absolutely dominated against Chelsea on Sunday? Where were the long, driving runs to propel City's attack forward?
City looked lethargic for much of this game, and the fact that Toure never took the contest by the scruff of the neck certainly didn't help.
Franco Di Santo, Wigan: B
On one hand, Di Santo was brilliant. He pushed Wigan's attack forward, kept himself in threatening postions and had several chances to score. On the other hand, he never scored. Wigan was very good in this game, but that final bit of class evaded the team and Di Santo all game long.
Aleksandar Kolarov, Manchester City: B+
If there was one City player worthy of some praise in this game, it was Kolarov. He was the team's most active player on both sides of the ball, and his runs out wide gave Wigan problems when his teammates played the ball through him.
But his performance wasn't without its own flaws. He had several scoring opportunities that he left wanting, including an early free kick that flew wide of the net. He was City's best player on the day, yes, but that's not exactly saying much.
Wigan Defense: B
Give the Wigan defenders credit—for 83 minutes, they limited the scoring opportunities for City and took the wind out of the sails of the home team's attack. Still, Tevez simply outclassed them on the game's only goal, a costly moment for Wigan. It was a fine performance, but it just wasn't good enough.
Carlos Tevez, Manchester City: B
He obviously deserves credit for scoring the game's only goal on a brilliant individual effort, but taken at the full 90 minutes, this wasn't Tevez's finest effort. Still, a game-winning goal is a game-winning goal, and it was certainly a beauty.