Wigan made the short trip down the East Lancashire road to take on Liverpool in the early Spring sunshine seeking their first victory ever at Anfield and what would if successful, three points in their perennial battle against relegation.
Roberto Martinez unsurprisingly retained the same side which dominated proceedings at home to West Brom last Saturday with Hugo Rodallega not judged fit enough to merit a place on the bench following a knee injury sustained late on in the game at Norwich.
There were no places on the bench for either of last Saturday’s late substitutes, McManaman and Diame, ( the latter due to injury ) their replacements being Sammon and Thomas respectively.
The game started at a fair pace with Moses testing the pace of the Liverpool midfield but Spearing tracked back with him allowing Moses to overrun the ball for a goal kick.
Liverpool responded in kind and a lovely ball from Gerrard to Henderson whose cross was blocked by Shaun Maloney which allowed Wiganto clear their lines and this was followed by another block, this time by McArthur from a shot byHenderson.
The first real chance of the game came again from Moses who broke down the right and as all too often this season he showed a palpable lack of vision when Maloney was unmarked and with an easy tap in beckoning, Moses opted to shoot and Skrtel blocked the ball allowing Liverpool to clear their lines.
Wigan continued to use the width and this time it was Beausejour’s turn to see his cross blocked by Skrtel.
Liverpool continued to press forwards with Gerrard controlling operations in midfield for the home side and Henderson’s ball was blocked by Caldwell.
Moses and Skrtel were involved in he majority of the action in the first twenty minutes and this continued when Moses went for a header in the penalty area and met instead Skrtel’s foot and a penalty was awarded by Mr Mason. There was a considerable delay whilst Moses received treatment but Maloney kept his cool and converted the chance for his first goal in Wigan colours.
Liverpool were stung into action and a failure to clear the ball effectively put the Wigan defence under pressure for successive corners which was ended when Kuyt was caught offside.Liverpool continued to press and not for the first time this season Al Habsi came to the Wigan team’s rescue producing a superb save from a powerful shot by Luis Suarez.
Victor Moses who is being linked with a move to Liverpool in the summer, was causing the home side a myriad of problems but shortly before half time, the Nigerian international was forced to leave the pitch with an injury to be replaced by the diminutive Spaniard Albert Crusat.
Al Habsi produced another fine save just before half time thwarting Liverpool captain’s fierce shot and Wigan went into the break with a hard fought lead but sure in the knowledge that Liverpool would come out for the second half like men possessed.
And so it proved and within two minutes Liverpool were level when Suarez when the Uruguayan gave Al Habsi no chance as he converted a low Gerrard cross after the England international was given too much space.
Wigan didn’t learn from this lapse in concentration and five minutes later Suarez thought he had given Liverpool the lead following a cross from Gerrard which was headed back across by Skrtel but Lee Mason ruled out the goal for handball and gave Suarez a yellow card for his trouble.
Liverpool continued to pressurise theWigandefence and a clumsy challenge by Maynor Figueroa earned the Honduran a yellow card.
Wigan managed to weather this spell of Liverpool pressure and tried to stretch theLiverpool defence but Carragher and Skrtel marshalled the defence well and looked comfortable.
Martinez opted to re-arrange his midfield in an attempt to stem theLiverpool tide with Beausejour being replaced by Ben Watson., raising speculation that Wigan were looking to settle for a draw.
The Wigan players thought otherwise however and a lucky bounce from a McCarthy shot landed at the feet of Caldwell who reacted quickly and managed to shoot into the corner past the despairing dive of Reina and against the run of play , Wigan were back in the lead.
Wigan grew in confidence as the game progressed, passing the ball around with aplomb, trying to frustrateLiverpool’s attacking prowess.Wigan continued to try and soak up the Liverpool attacks and Roberto Martinez opted to replace the industrious but tiring Di Santo with the fresh legs of the bullocking Irishman Conor Sammon.
Sammon almost made an instant impact when his never say die attitude saw him get the better of the Liverpool defence but the ball fell to Watson who saw his goal bound shot blocked.
At the other end, smart blocks and stops by Figueroa and Al Habsi thwarted the red tide, as Wigan’s defenders time and again put their bodies on the line as they battled for the club’s Premier League survival.
Liverpool threw everything at Wigan but the embattled away side hung on for a much needed and well fought for victory.
Starting Line up
Al Habsi, Boyce, Caldwell, Alcaraz, Figueroa, Moses, McCarthy, McArthur, Maloney, Beausejour, Di Santo
Crusat, Watson, Sammon
Man of the Match….GaryCaldwell…a captain’s role in defence and an excellent goal in attack.
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