Wigan Athletic gave a skilful, determined Southampton a lesson in the quality and application they will need if they are to survive in the Premier League this season as they emerged from the first Premier League game in the city for seven years with all three points, with a second half passing display reminiscent of Barca’ at their best.
The discussion amongst the Wigan fans on the long walk to the ground from the none existent car parks was who Roberto Martinez would replace Victor Moses with on the right wing? Martinez opted to make minimal alterations to the line up from the Chelsea game, bringing in Aroune Kone as the central forward with Franco Di Santo moving to the wing and Shaun Maloney and James McArthur both being passed fit.
The game started brightly with both sides looking to attack but in different ways; Wigan with the two Mc’s (McArthur and McCarthy controlling midfield) looked to pass the ball into the net with Figueroa roaming as a left wing back the most dangerous attacking foil but all too often these moves petered out on the edge of the penalty area. In contrast Southampton with their best player Adam Lallana looked to maximise the attacking potential of Lambert with more direct long balls.
For all this positivity, clear cut chances in the first half were few and far between, the stand out chance for Southampton falling to Lallana whose blistering shot looked destined for the top corner until Al Habsi tipped the ball over the bar.
Half time saw the teams going in all square which based on the first half action was a fair indication of the play.
The second half was a more open affair, Wigan upped the tempo with their quality passing coming to the fore and it was only six minutes alter that this bore fruit with an attacking run by the ever dependable Emmerson Boyce found Maloney on the edge of the area and his slick pass to Di Santo split the home defence and the ever industrious Argentinean fired past Davies and Wigan were ahead.
Wigan continued to pass with aplomb as they sought to shut the game out, with some passing moves numbering in the thirties with the home side struggling to seize the ball off their opponents. When they did however their more direct style came close to bearing fruit on several occasions and Lallana, Fox and Hoodveld all came close to scoring, the first two thwarted by excellent keeping from Al Habsi and the latter effort being denied by the post.
At the other end, super sub Jordi Gomez should an increasingly excellent understanding with Kone and fired a shot which produced a fine save from Davies.
Kone had worked hard all afternoon with one shot narrowly going past the post but he made no mistake in the last minute when he robbed fox of the ball on the half way line and as he closed on the keeper with a defender chasing him down, he fired a powerful shot into the bottom left hand corner to seal the win and spark the seven hundred or so travelling Wigan fans into wild celebrations.
The full time whistle blown by referee who referred the game sensibly with no cards issued, brought more celebrations from the away fans as Wigan’s performance showed that last season’s late rally wasn’t just a flash in the pan.
Wigan line up
Al Habsi, Alcaraz, Caldwell(c), Ramis, Boyce, Figueroa, McArthur, McCarthy, Maloney, Di Santo, Kone
Gomez for Di Santo, Beausejour ( for Maloney ), Boselli ( for Kone)
Man of the Match
The two Mc’s performances were excellent and their work together deserves a joint award
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