The Italian hit his first goal in the Premier League since March to turn an evenly-fought clash at the DW Stadium in City's favour after 69 minutes. City went on to win 2-0 after substitute James Milner struck a superb second goal three minutes later before leaving the field injured. Balotelli had been making his first start in his six games and his first since being dropped by Mancini for his attitude in training ahead of the clash with Tottenham earlier this month. Since then the Italian has been troubled by a back injury and he endured a largely frustrating night on a cold night in Wigan, including missing a simple headed chance, before his decisive goal. Ali Al Habsi was unable to hold a low shot from Gareth Barry and Balotelli reacted quickly to smash in the rebound at the second attempt. Mancini said of Balotelli:
"I am very happy for him because he scored his first goal this year. He scored an important goal.
"I hope he can improve in the next week and the next game."
Mancini had considered taking Balotelli off in order to change a game in which Wigan more than held their own, but instead opted to remove his strike partner Sergio Aguero. Mancini said:
"We thought Mario or Sergio but Mario in this moment is maybe more fresh than Sergio.
"Sergio has played all the games and for this reason we changed. Also Mario moved well.
"He didn't play like he knows but in this position Mario was better in this moment."
Milner spent just 21 minutes on the field before leaving with a hamstring injury and will be assessed in the coming days. City should have had a third when Maicon shot wide but Wigan's confident play had troubled City throughout the first hour and they had several good chances to go ahead. One of them came shortly before Balotelli struck as an unmarked Arouna Kone diverted a header wide. Kone, Jean Beausejour and Jordi Gomez had all gone close in the first half. Latics boss Roberto Martinez said:
"From our point of view, I think we edged the game for 60 minutes.
"The disappointment is we couldn't get the first goal in that period.
"But I loved the attitude, effort and personality that we showed. We kept showing that desire.
"It was a very pleasing performance from many aspects but we are still disappointed.
"I don't want to be a Wigan Athletic representative saying we are happy to lose with a good performance against the champions. That is not accepted any more.
"It is not good enough for us. We are disappointed we couldn't get a positive result."