Wigan suffered another heavy defeat , in a disjointed performance low on quality and team play as Rafa Beneitez confortably won the battle of the Spanish managers
Wigan had made the long trip to West London buoyed by the return from international duty of eleven players all with a clean bill of health and the welcome return from African Cup of Nations duty of leading striker Aroune Kone . Manager Roberto Martinez opted to retain the same starting line up from the side which snatched a last minute draw at home to Southampton last week with the aforementioned Kone having to be content with a place on the bench.
Wigan started well and but for the keeping skills of Petr Cech could have been two nil up, the first from Chelsea old boy Di Santo and the second a long range shot from Maloney both of which would have beaten many other keepers.
Chelsea responded quickly Maynor Figueroa showed no effects of jet lag as he moved swiftly to block Hazard as he was shaping to shoot.
For Wigan, once again Maloney was the danger man and good play from the Scotsman as he linked up with Beausejour and the Chilean fired over a beautiful cross but Espinoza was unable to reach the ball and it was a chance missed.
Chelsea then upped the tempo and Al Habsi was forced into saves from Torres and Oscar and Torres will wonder how his powerful header went past he post as Al Habsi had slipped and was lying stranded on the floor with the goal unprotected.
The scoreline didn’t stay goalless for long when a lovely ball from inside his own half from Luiz, split the Wigan midfield , the ball found Torres who put Ramires past the Wigan offside trap and the Chelsea forward strode past Al Habsi and Chelsea were ahead.
The rest of the first half was mainly dominated by Chelsea with chances falling to Torres whose header forced a fine save from Al Habsi and Lampard and Azpilicueta.
For Wigan, Maloney was the lone source of any chances both in terms of creating and finishing and Wigan trooped off at half time knowing that they would need a dramatic improvement in the second half if they were to head back to Lancashire with any points.
Both teams started the second half with the team line ups unchanged with Wigan looking for more from their midfielder to provide some quality ball to the front players. Same line ups , same play as Chelsea continued to dominate and with Wigan under pressure there was very little in attacking play from the relegation threatened away side.
This pressure told when Azpilicueta cut the ball across and no Wigan player was able to clear the ball and Hazard was left unmarked and as a result he scored with an easy tap in.
Wigan looked very much a one man team going forwards and this was proved again when within two minutes of going two nil down, Maloney broke and curled the ball past Cech and the despairing dive of Gary Cahill into the Chelsea goal to give the hardy bunch of travelling fans hope of a marvellous comeback.
Martinez then opted to withdraw the industrious Espinoza, throwing top striker Aroune Kone into the fray looking for the equiliser.
Chelsea weren’t about to concede the lead without a fight as Luiz and Lampard pushed forwards and not for the first time this afternoon Al Habsi had to save well low down with his defence stretched .
Wigan’s attacks were few and far between and from one of these there was a half chance of a penalty when a ball played in by Stam hit Cole on the hand, the referee Mr Dean ruling that due to the closeness of Cole to Stam that it was unavoidable and waved play on.
Wigan continued to strive for the equaliser and a good ball out of defence from Caldwell found Kone who showed his strength to hold off Azpilicueta but his on target shot was straight at Cech.
Chelsea sealed the three points when Lampard shot unchallenged into the bottom corner leaving Al Habsi with no chance and questions to be asked of the ragged defence in front of him.
Wigan fell apart and poor keeping by Al Habsi saw the keeper only parry a shot and substitute Marin made the score 4 -1. It was almost 5 as Wigan failed to close down yet another attack and Al Habsi was forced into a fine double save.
Full time saw the Wigan team troop off dejected and no amount of platitudes and taking the positives from the manager can disguise the poor defending, ineffective midfield and poor shooting which leaves Wigan with the very real chance of relegation this season
Al Habsi, Scharner, Caldwell, Figueroa, Stam, Beausejour, McCarthy, McArthur, Espinoza, Di Santo, Maloney
Kone for Espinoza (60), Jones for Stam (85)
Man of Match ………………Maloney, the one bright spark on a very dull afternoon
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