Wigan fans looking for a reaction following last week’s pitiful second half performance will have left the D.W.Stadium disappointed, as Wigan once again failed to make home advantage count as they were thoroughly out classed by a well organised Fulham side whose dominance of midfield was absolute.
Roberto Martinez made two changes from the now traditional Old Trafford hammering, one enforced with Di Santo being replaced by Gomez and one tactical in McArthur being relegated to the bench, his replacement being Ben Watson.
In the early autumn sunshine both sides, with the sum total of one player eligible for the England team looked to pass the ball in the continental style but it was Fulham whose passing was more incisive. Berbatov was especially dominant and gave Watson a torrid time and his and Sidwell’s control of midfield placed the Wigan back three under recurrent pressure.
For Wigan the main creative outlet were down the left flank from Beausejour and Figueroa but all too often the crosses went behind the supporting players. One successful cross from the latter saw the ball fall to Boyce steaming in at the back post however the angle was too narrow and his header went wide.
Kone continued to develop his attacking relationship with Gomez , the latter who was the only Wigan player to display the intelligence and poise needed and the Spaniard was unlucky to see a good shot bounce back of the woodwork with Kone unable to score from the rebound.
The first half an hour or so wasn’t the most thrilling period of premier league football you are likely to see with the most notable event the injury to referee Lee Probert in a Sidwell/Watson sandwich
Wigan fans had given their returning old boy Hugo Rodallega a warm return and the Columbian returned the favour when he didn’t celebrate scoreing the opening goal by rising above his former captain to head home from a Berbatov flick past Al Habsi.
Wigan were stung into action and pushed forward looking for the equaliser however Fulham’s well marshalled defence and tenacious midfield were more than a match for their opponents. Fulham continued to press are can consider themselves unlucky not to go further ahead when a goal bound header from Northern Irish international Baird was scissor kicked off the line by Beausejour. Fulham continued to threaten and Al Habsi was forced into a fine save from main man Berbatov.
Half time brought muted murmurs of discontent from some of the home fans with the hope that the second half would show an improvement.
So it proved with Wigan showing more direct purpose looking to stretch their opponents but all too often Wigan’s play was narrow and combined with poor set pieces allowed Fulham to retain their lead.
On the hour mark Martinez opted to make his first change surprisingly replacing Jordi Gomez with Mauro Boselli. The Argentinian hasn’t scored a Premier League goal in his one /off Premier League career and he will never get a better chance than today, when McCarthy shot from the edge of the box, Schwarzer made a good save but with the goal completely open with not keeper or defender between Boselli and the goal the Argentinean managed to miss the goal.
Within five minutes this missed chance was brought into sharp focus, when Fulham extended their lead. Substitute Ruiz broke down the left, fired the ball across the defence to the unmarked Duff who fired a powerful shot past Al Habsi.
From then on Wigan huffed and puffed but Fulham continued to control the game with ten men behind the ball soaking up the almost constant Wigan pressure. Martienz decided to throw caution to the wind replacing Boyce and captain Caldwell with Miyachi and McManaman. There was an immediate increase in the tempo with McManaman especially looking sharp and his blocked goalbound shot fell to Kone whose goal gave Wigan two minutes to steal an undeserved point. This didn’t happen despite Al Habsi venturing forward for a corner and the full time whistle brought to an end a game Wigan would have marked down as one to win if they were to avoid an end of season scrap.
Team and Player Ratings
Al Habsi…6.5 but for his saves the scoreline would have been far worse
Ramis…6 Steady under pressure
Caldwell…5 Not his best game
Figueroa…5.5 Worked hard going forward, vulnerable when defending
Boyce…5 Looked off the pace
Beausejour…5.5. Too many poor passes
Gomez…7 MOM, showed the intelligence and poise needed, something lacking in his collegues.
McCarthy…5 Dominated by Sidwell
Watson…4 A poor poor performance
Kone…6 Took his goal well, starved of quality ball for most of the game
Maloney…5.5 a quiet game.
Boselli…4 An embarrassing miss
Miyachi…6,5 Looked good when he came on
McManaman…6.5 Showed more guts and determination in 15 mins than some of the others did in 90.
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