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City stretch lead to three points

Manchester City's Edin Dzeko, bottom centre, is congratulated by teammates including David Silva, top, after scoring against Wigan Athletic during their English Premier League soccer match at The DW Stadium, Wigan, England, Monday Jan. 16, 2012. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

Edin Dzeko’s first goal for two months earned Manchester City a hard-fought 1-0 win at Wigan that sent Roberto Mancini’s side three points clear at top of the English Premier League.

The Bosnian’s sublime 22nd-minute header proved enough to sink the bottom club after Ali Al Habsi had threatened to frustrate the leaders.

Wigan keeper Al Habsi produced a string of excellent saves before and after Dzeko had netted his 14th goal for City this season.

David Silva, Sergio Aguero and Dzeko were all denied by the Omani international but City returned to winning ways to pull clear of nearest rivals Manchester United ahead of Sunday’s big home game with third-placed Tottenham.

“I could have scored one or two more goals in the end, but I’m happy with the three points because it was a tough game and Wigan played very well,” Dzeko told Sky Sports.

“I’m happy to score and help my team win. In football, sometimes you score and sometimes not, but I’m happy today.”

Having suffered back-to-back defeats in cup competition, an away game against basement team Wigan provided City with a perfect opportunity to snap out of their winter blues.

The FA Cup elimination at the hands of Manchester United – as well as the League Cup first-leg home defeat to Liverpool, together with captain Vincent Kompany’s four-match suspension – had resulted in a poor start to 2012 for Mancini’s expensively-assembled side.

But they found relief at Wigan, whose record against the so-called big four is nothing short of diabolical.

Since winning promotion to the top-flight in 2005, Wigan have lost all 14 league and cup games against Manchester United while they went into this game having failed to score in the past six hours and 45 minutes against City.

Make that eight hours 15 minutes now.

Dzeko and Stefan Savic had already directed headers narrowly wide of the target inside the opening 10 minutes before the home side, who had conceded 11 times in their previous three league games, were undone by a simple set-piece midway through the first half.

Even City’s injured Italian international striker Mario Balotelli, who cut a frustrated figure as he watched the action from an executive box, cannot have failed but to be impressed as Dzeko found the net with a superb header after meeting Silva’s inch-perfect free-kick.

Wigan are without a win in their past nine home attempts in the league yet they can count themselves fortunate to have escaped a hiding – thanks to Al Habsi’s efforts.

Wigan had a chance and to snatch an unlikely point when James McCarthy went close to a 70th-minute equaliser.


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