Tevez sinks Wigan as City close gap on United
Manchester: Carlos Tevez struck late to give Manchester City a 1-0 win against unlucky Wigan in their FA Cup final dress rehearsal at Eastlands.
Argentina striker Tevez netted his 11th league goal of the season seven minutes from full time to narrow the gap to 13 points between City and Premier League leaders Manchester United, who only drew at West Ham.
City`s win could delay United`s title celebrations as their bitter rivals will only clinch the trophy in the next round of fixtures if Roberto Mancini`s men lose at Tottenham on Sunday while United beat Aston Villa on Monday.
Wigan boss Roberto Martinez was keen to get across the message about the importance of staying in the Premier League and there were only muted celebrations from the Latics on Saturday when they beat Millwall to reach their first FA Cup final.
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini backed Wigan to avoid relegation.
"I think Wigan will stay up because they play very well, they do not deserve to be relegated and also because Roberto Martinez is a good manager, his team play very well.
"I think they are the best football team at the bottom, they do not play long ball, they take some risks.
"They fight every year down there and for this reason I think they deserve to stay up.
"In the last 25 minutes, we had chances to win but they probably do not deserve to lose."
Martinez made two changes with forward Franco Di Santo and keeper Joel Robles replacing Callum McManaman and Ali Al Habsi respectively.
City had Micah Richards making his first appearance since the England defender suffered a knee injury in October.
Aleksandar Kolarov, Joleon Lescott and Javi Garcia also came in for Gael Clichy, Matija Nastasic and James Milner.
Mancini threw in the towel in on the title weeks ago and the FA Cup may represent their only realistic hope of silverware this season, but five wins from six games is at least delaying United`s coronation.
City were struggling to find space early on but a tricky run from Sergio Aguero opened up the Wigan defence before the Argentina international curled wide from a tight angle.
Richards may have been out for seven months but he showed no sign of any rustiness as he got across the area to cut out a clever chipped ball from Di Santo that was heading to the feet of Shaun Maloney in front of goal.
Wigan had an even better chance in the 35th minute when Arouna Kone broke free before finding Maloney in the area.
The Scotland attacker`s clever flick found Di Santo before the Argentina forward slipped two City defenders but could not beat Joe Hart in the hosts` goal.
City broke away immediately but Aguero could not reach Richards` ball across the face of goal.
Mancini brought off Aguero at the break for Edin Dzeko with Garcia moving back into the defence to form a five-man back line but that did not stop Wigan creating a chance right after the restart.
Maloney weaved down the left before cutting inside and his shot beat Hart, but Lescott was on hand to clear the ball away to safety.
Mancini opted for change again with Milner on for Garcia and the England international was straight into the action but his cross was just too far in front of City`s attackers.
City were starting to find space and Robles had to be alert to close down Dzeko before blocking the Bosnian striker`s effort with his boot.
But the reigning champions did get the winner when Kolarov fed Tevez and he shook off the challenges of Paul Scharner and Jordi Gomez to break into the area before firing home the winner into the top corner.
The defeat keeps Wigan deep in trouble as they try to catch fourth bottom Aston Villa.
But Martinez believes his team`s performance against the champions proves they can avoid the drop.
"The mentality is very good from us, the performance is exactly what we needed," said Martinez.
Martinez believes the fight for survival will go down to the final game, when his side host Aston Villa at the DW Stadium.
"I see it going down to the final game, we are playing Aston Villa. We talk about six pointers and it does not get bigger than that," added Martinez.