Writer: Barry Worthington
Date:Sunday May 1 2011
Wigan Athletic were denied three points from this game by old boy Leighton Baines who crashed home a 78th minute spot kick to give Everton a share of the spoils.
The match had been billed as a must win game for the Latics and sure enough it was the home side who took the early ascendancy, with just two minutes played James McCarthy was slipped through by Hugo Rodallega, but Everton keeper Tim Howard was off his line quickly to gather the ball.
Within a minute it was Rodallega`s turn to race down on goal, but the Colombia international shot wide from 15 yards under pressure from Distin and Jagielka.
The game was played in blistering heat, the Latics sensible style of football had Everton doing all the chasing early on, the Latics kept possession well and they restricted Everton to a few moments of pressure without creating any chances.
One spell of sustained Latics possession on 21 minutes brought the games opening goal. Some great interchanges involving most of the outfield players saw the ball move through the back four into the midfield.
Cleverley, Figueroa and Diame exchanged passes out on Latics left before Cleverley brought the ball inside, he looked to shoot but instead fed the ball to James McCarthy who chipped over a static Distin, Charles N`Zogbia reacted quicker than his marker Baines, but as he got to the ball his touch was poor and took it away from goal.
N`Zogbia under pressure from Tim Howard slipped on the edge of the six yard area, but reacted quickly to regain his footing and swivelled, with the Everton keeper out of position N`Zogbia hit a great curling effort into the far corner of the net, 1-0.
Wigan born Everton midfield man Leon Osman responded almost immediately for the Toffees but Ali Al-Habsi reacted well to turn over the shot, but then it looked like Everton would get the equaliser when they were awarded a 35th minute penalty.
Baines took a short free-kick to Osman just inside the Latics box, N`Zogbia was caught out by the Everton mans quick turn and ended up clipping his heals, penalty given.
Up stepped Mikel Arteta, the Spaniard hit a strong left footed effort, low towards the bottom left hand corner of Al-Habsi`s goal, but the Latics keeper made a fantastic save getting down quickly and palming away to safety.
The penalty save lifted the home side and they took control of the game with Latics midfield strong and full of running. Unfortunately on 40 minutes Momo Diame slipped on the heavily watered turf and crashed into Everton`s Rodwell, it looked like the Latics midfield man, who was having a great game, had injured his ribs or hip, he had to be replaced by James McArthur.
With four minutes of injury time at the end of the half Latics were happy to keep possession and get to half time for a well earned drink. With time running out the ball was threaded through looking to play in Rodallega, but it beat the Latics striker and fell at the feet of N`Zogbia who unleashed a thunderous drive that Howard did well to keep out.
The second half started with Latics sitting back a little and Everton having the ascendancy, bad news on 54 minutes N`Zogbia had to leave the pitch with a dead leg, he was replaced by Victor Moses.
Moses almost made an immediate impact, running across the Everton back line he just couldn`t get a shot away, he fed Emmerson Boyce out wide, Boyce hit a first time cross that was blocked by Jagielka, the ball fell to Moses but his fierce drive was superbly saved by Tim Howard.
Moses had another effort that hit Howard in the chest as Latics went looking for the killer second goal. The Nigeria international was now starting to have a big influence on the game and he caused pandemonium in the Everton defence when he raced into the box.
Skipping passed Baines and then Rodwell, Moses unleashed a shot that crashed against Distin, the ball then fell invitingly to James McCarthy 15 yards out his first time shot cannoned off Jagielka, the ball rebounded to McCarthy once again, this time he looked certain to score, but once again a great bloke by Jagielka cleared the danger.
Those misses were to prove very costly on 78 minutes, a Baines corner was curled towards the near post, Rodallega jumped to clear the ball, but he left his arm high, and, reminiscent of Jagielka`s hand ball for Sheffield United that gave the Latics a penalty on that dramatic end of season game back in May 2007, the ball struck the Colombians arm leaving referee Lee Mason with no choice but to award a penalty.
Up stepped Leighton Baines, he smashed the ball centrally, but high and powerful leaving Al-Habsi with little chance, with the minimalist of celebration the former Latics man ran back for the restart knowing he had broken a few hearts. 1-1
The final 10 minutes or so saw Latics exert pressure back on Everton as they looked in vain for the winner, Di Santo, Moses, Rodallega and Watson all had efforts that Tim Howard dealt with and it just wasn`t to be.
A great effort by Martinez`s team, Everton just had three efforts on goal all game, the Latics were in complete control, but once again they couldn`t finish off the opposition and that looks like it just might be the story of the season.
Date:Sunday May 1 2011
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