Dzeko heads Manchester City past Wigan 1-0
WIGAN, England (Reuters) -- Edin Dzeko's first-half header lifted Manchester City three points clear at the top of the Premier League with a gritty 1-0 victory at bottom club Wigan Athletic on Monday.
After dominating possession with their trademark swift passing, City's breakthrough came in the 22nd minute when David Silva floated in a free kick that Dzeko nodded past Wigan keeper Ali Al Habsi.
City, who had been suffering a blip since the start of the new year with one win and three defeats in all competitions, were still far from their blistering best but held firm against a spirited Wigan to take the points.
City moved on to 51 points from 21 games, three ahead of champions Manchester United. Third-placed Tottenham Hotspur, who visit City on Sunday, are a further two points behind.
Manchester United beat Bolton Wanderers 3-0 on Saturday to go level on points at the top and City knew they could not afford a slip-up at their struggling Lancashire hosts who had not won at home since Aug. 27.
Silva returned from the ankle injury that kept him out of last week's 1-0 defeat by Liverpool in the first leg of their League Cup semi-final and a little of the dynamism that has torn apart so many teams this season also came back.
City dominated possession -- and noise levels at a sparse DW Stadium on a cold evening in the northwest town -- and midway through the first half reaped their reward when a free kick was awarded on the left-hand side.
Silva swept the ball into the box and the towering Dzeko leapt to meet it and flick in his 11th league goal of the season.
Wigan had chances against a City defence missing suspended captain Vincent Kompany but anything they engineered, such as two long-range shots by James McArthur, was more opportunistic than the slick moves crafted by their opponents.
The hosts started the second half brightly before City rediscovered their rhythm and should have scored when Sergio Aguero did all the hard work by dribbling past several Wigan players and the keeper only for Dzeko to fluff his shot.
Silva was denied by Al Habsi's quick reflexes and City keeper Joe Hart dived well to block James McCarthy's low shot as Wigan sensed they could still snatch something from the game.
City manager Roberto Mancini was literally hopping mad shortly before the end when Wigan's Maynor Figueroa handled the ball near the halfway line when he was the last man, denying Aguero from running clear through on goal.
Wigan stayed bottom of the table with 15 points while City travelled home with the type of functional win United managed so often last season on their way to a record 19th league title.