When Pep Guardiola joined Manchester City, many supporters were hoping that he’d be quickly breaking records with the team. As the away fans left the King Power Stadium on Saturday evening and as viewers turned off the TV coverage, few were overjoyed that he’d knocked down a ten-year old milestone in the 4-2 defeat to Leicester City.
When Andy King’s smashed effort from the edge of the box beat Claudio Bravo, after Jamie Vardy had found the net for the home side a minute or so before that, another achievement was racked up for the Catalan manager in his debut season. It was the first time since October 2006 that the Blues had conceded twice in the opening five minutes of a match.
Then – in what would turn out to be a 4-0 loss at Wigan Athletic – City were dead and buried by that point in the match, too. Thankfully for the goal difference, Guardiola’s side managed to keep it down to a defeat by just two on an afternoon that threatened to get even more embarrassing than it was.
Stuart Pearce, who famously almost signed the Catalan on a free transfer ahead of that campaign, couldn’t muster any response to the Latics’ four strikes that afternoon.
There were just 64 seconds played when Emile Heskey smashed Wigan into the lead at the then-JJB Stadium. It was probably at that point the travelling fans started to have their doubts over whether or not Saturday 21 October 2006 was going to be an enjoyable afternoon.
Wigan hadn’t won in their previous seven games; City were unbeaten in three.
Having barely had a kick of the ball, City hadn’t settled into the match and were on the back foot immediately. The hosts brought it forward on the right flank through Emmerson Boyce and he was only half-heartedly closed down as he approached the corner of the box. He delivered a low cross into the edge of the area, where Richard Dunne couldn’t get to grips with Heskey, and the centre-forward smashed it into the bottom corner.
It was to get worse for the City captain less than two minutes later. A free kick on the left flank attracted the Wigan defenders forward and gave the hosts the opportunity to really put Pearce’s side on the back foot. In the end, the Latics had to do little more than swing the ball in towards the penalty area to cause havoc.
Nicky Weaver, back in goal for the majority of that season after a long lay-off through injury and have fallen down the pecking order when his career was threatened by his regular knee problem, came to gather the cross. If he called for it, then it was either not loud enough, not heard, or ignored by Dunne – who got his head on the ball and turned it into the centre of the goal.
Both of their sheepish looks after the own goal suggested both had to take some element of blame, though it effectively ended the match inside five minutes – to that point in the campaign, City had scored seven goals in total and hadn’t bagged more than twice in a game. Pearce’s side were effectively beaten, despite 85 minutes still remaining on the clock.
By the second half, Wigan were knocking the ball around like they were Barcelona and City were chasing shadows, unable to keep pace with their opposition. Heskey took control of a long punt downfield, before it was played through for Leighton Baines to steam through into the City box.
He breezed past Micah Richards, who could do nothing but fall over at the feet of the left back, before delivering it into the six-yard box. Henri Camara was there to finish, though he should never have been allowed to – Stephen Jordan actually got there first, but his clearance without any conviction deflected off the Senegalese forward and past Weaver.
Two minutes later, Antonio Valencia smashed a drive across the goalkeeper and into the far corner, as Wigan broke down the right flank. Too much space was given to the winger, as he collected a pass inside from Heskey, and Dunne’s efforts to close him down after breaking away from his man inside the box couldn’t put him off.
With 67 minutes played, the reduced away following – who had stayed away in both a protest at the ticket prices being charged by the Latics, helped by the awful football on display for the start of 2006-07 – were left embarrassed. Their side was dead and buried and there were few positives to take from an awful display.
In fact, there was only really Michael Johnson’s performance that City fans could take heart from, as the youngster held his own on his debut in what was a difficult afternoon for him. He would later prove himself capable of being a part of a Premier League team before injuries would decimate his career.
Meanwhile, Matthew Mills’s one and only start for the club would end with him being substituted off after a difficult hour and loaned out to Colchester later in the season. His City career lasted 66 minutes in total, as he had come off the bench late on in a 2-0 loss at Chelsea the previous campaign.
Speaking to the BBC after the match, City boss Pearce was very matter of fact: “You don’t give yourselves a chance when you go 2-0 down after four minutes. When you go away from home you hope to keep it tight and quiet the home crowd down, but we did the opposite. Man-for-man, we didn’t compete well enough and in the second half we lost our shape trying to chase the game.”
City: Weaver, Richards, M Mills (Vassell 60), Dunne, Jordan, Johnson, Barton, Hamann (Dickov 46), Sinclair, Samaras, Corradi
Wigan: Kirkland, Hall (Webster 46), De Zeeuw, Baines, Boyce, Valencia (Teale 83), Scharner, Skoko (Landzaat 30), Kilbane, Heskey, Camara
Goals: Heskey (2), Dunne (OG 4), Camara (65), Valencia (67)
Written by David Mooney
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