Latics were beaten by Manchester City for the first time in the Premier League at Eastlands today, the game’s only goal came in an action packed start to the second half; a Pablo Zabaleta volley from 20 yards.
City’s ageing skipper Richard Dunne was sent-off for kicking out at Amr Zaki, Latics piled on the pressure but couldn’t find a way through. Lee Cattermole headed against the bar late on and Zaki somehow putting the rebound over from three yards when it was easier to score.
Latics, roared on by a 2,500 following at Eastlands, went close in the fifth minute, Ryan Taylor’s corner headed just over from 10 yards by Titus Bramble.
Soon afterwards at the other end, Elano shot well wide from 25 yards, the ball ending up nearer to the corner flag than Chris Kirkland’s net. There was a let-off for Latics in the 11th minute, Elano’s pass from the centre-circle sending Robino clear on goal, the visitors appealing for offside.
But under pressure from Paul Scharmer, the Brazilian striker poked a right-foot shot wide of the post. Bramble came to Latics’ rescue after 22 minutes, clearing Robinho’s shot off the line after Wayne Bridge’s pass had played in him.
Robinho clipped the ball over the advancing Kirkland but centre-half Bramble was on hand to kick clear. Moments later, Shaun Wright-Phillips’ right-wing cross found Daniel Sturridge at the back post but he headed over.
Emile Heskey should have done better in the 25th minute when a Mario Melchiot cross picked him out in the box, but the England striker directed his header wide when he should have at least made keeper Joe Hart work.
A solo run by Wright-Phillips on the half-hour ended with his shot being deflected behind by Bramble for a corner. Latics’ first shot on target came in the 33rd minute, Wilson Palacios’ 20-yard shot from an Antonio Valencia pass going straight at Hart.
Palacios tried his luck again with a shot from outside the box six minutes before the break, the left-foot daisy cutter flashing wide of the near post. City’s breakthrough came in the 53rd minute, Sturridge’s right-wing cross headed out of the box by Scharner but only as far as Zabaleta 20 yards out.
Zabaleta brought it under control before hitting a volley past Kirkland. Within a minute, City were down to 10 men, skipper Dunne sent-off for a clash with Amr Zaki. The pair tussled in the air for a high ball, and when both fell to the floor, Dunne appeared to kick out at the Latics front man.
Referee Lee Mason immediately brandished the red card, giving Latics the numerical advantage. Latics went close to an equaliser in the 64th minute, a corner from substiture Daniel de Ridder met by Scharner with a stooping header.
But Elano was well placed on the line to block with his chest, the ball then cleared out of the City box. De Ridder then tired his luck with a shot from just inside the box after cutting on to his right foot, the effort flying over the bar.
There was another sight of goal for de Ridder in the 78th minute, Valencia’s cross picking him out at the back post but the Dutchman headed over. Latics should have levelled in the 84th minute, Cattermole looping a header from Scharner’s free-kick against the bar.
The rebound fell to Zaki who somehow headed over from barely three yards…
Steve Bruce opted against making changes despite a busy workload of three games in seven days, naming the same 17 players on duty at Manchester United on Wednesday night.
Report by Jason Taylor