Wigan faced and beat La Liga opposition today with a competent performance in which virtually all the squad took their opportunities to push for a starting role in next week’s Premier League opener against Norwich City.
Rodallega and Alcaraz continued their recovery from their exploits in the Copa America which gave starting roles to Franco Di Santo and Adrian Lopez respectively. With Moses again slotting in place of the now departed N’Zogbia and Gomez replacing Cleverley the starting line up looked to give a few indications of next weeks starting eleven.
Villareal are a small town club like Wigan and like Wigan they punch above their weight in La Liga and the Submarines showed that they would be now pushover passing the ball with the speed and fluidity that Spanish sides are renowned for.
The early play was end to end without any real chances until a Villareal attack at pace wasn’t closed down by the Latics defence and Wigan’s very own superhero Al Habsi sans cape and mask did well to tip away
Latics suffered last season from the occasional lapses in concentration at the back and another one of these today from Caldwell almost let the visitors in again and once again Al Habsi had to move swiftly to block the shot.
At the other end once again the main danger man was Victor Moses who gave the Villareal defence a torrid time either cutting inside or using his pace to go on the outside before firing in some superb crosses. One such effort was nearly converted by McCarthy who went close
On the other wing Gomez benefitting from some extended game time in one position played some neat one two with Di Santo and the young Spaniard was desperately unlucky not to open the scoring when a beautifully crafted free kick hit the woodwork.
Villareal are no mugs however and the Latics midfield and back four were made to work overtime when not in possession of the football, Boyce once again showing his undoubted quality at right back.
If there is an area where Latics give cause for concern it is as back up for Rodallega. In the first half today Di Santo had the opportunity to claim the mantle but whilst he showed undoubted pace and determination , his finishing was once again poor and Latics who were the nineteenth club in terms of goals in the Premier League last season cannot afford to be so wasteful in front of goal
The only goal of the game came in the dying seconds of the first half, Di Santo played Moses through and once again the man of the match showed the forwards how to finish with a sharp shot which gave Sanchez no change in the Villareal goal.
Martinez opted to make changes at half time the popular Kirkland replacing Al Habsi in the goal and Sammon replacing Di Santo up front. The second half seemed to have a markedly increased tempo with both sides continued to press forwards, playing without the usual pressure of a competitive league game and whilst the passion was somewhat lacking the effort wasn’t and a crunching but fair tackle on James McCarthy resulted in the young Irish international being led from the pitch with what looked like a knee injury. McCarthy was replaced by his almost sound alike James Mc Arthur who slotted immediately into his role showing the ever increasing depth in the Wigan squad.
Latics continued to rotate the squad in the second half with Thomas, Jones, Dicko, Stam, Golobart all coming on at various stages of the half, with once again Jones catching the eye with his excellent link up work and creativity.
Wigan’s best chance in the second half fell to Sammon when the big Irishman beat the offside trap but showed a lack of composure in shooting early into the keeper’s hand when he had the opportunity to get closer to the goal. Another wonder run by Moses including a slide ruie dribble along the dead ball line almost resulted in another goal for the home side but the ball shot across the goal line rebounded off a Villareal defender but Sammon couldn’t get a touch on it for what would have been an easy tap in.
The final whistle brought a well earned round of applause from a sparse crowd who saw plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the forthcoming Premier league season.
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