Wigan Fail to Part Red Sea
Wigan Fans Arriving at the JJB today could have been excused for being nervous about the game especially when finding that Sibierski was absent creating a new look strike force of on loan Marcus Bent and starting for the first time Julius Aghahowa with a complete back four on the bench of Taylor, Granqvist, Hall and Olembe with Boyce replacing Granqvist at centre half.
Indeed the writing did appear to be on the wall when in the first minute a Liverpool free kick beat the on rushing Brown and Kirkland had to drop quickly to prevent an early goal.
After that it was a pulsating half with lots of effort from both sides with Liverpool having the best of the chances, Torres being guilty on several occasions of missing when he should have done better.
Defensively Wigan were superb in the first half, Melchiot and Kilbane out performing Pennant and Riise and Boyce and the much maligned Bramble dominating the classy Liverpool forwards of Kuyt and Torres.
Kirkland pulled off a series of excellent saves one in particular when Torres was through using his legs to divert the ball away for a corner
The Latics midfield were working tirelessly to contain they more classy opponents, Brown in particular was everywhere on the pitch chasing down Liverpool players and his battle with Mascareno will stick in my mind for a long time.
If Latics did let themselves down in the first half it was that they produced very little quality ball up front. Liverpool pushed out very quickly and often attacking moves from Wigan ended up back with Bramble, Boyce and Kirkland.
The only Wigan player who looked to have the skill to create chances was Jason Koumas who again showed what a bargain he was at 5 million pounds.
The half time whistle was met with a much deserved and rousing round of applause for a tremendous first half effort from the home team.
Liverpool began the second half in a more positive fashion and this created more openings at both ends
Indeed Wigan did get the ball in the net Bent blasting past Reina in the Liverpool net but was ruled offside. Other media reports saying that Aghahowa was offside but not interfering with play.
Koumas looked dangerous every time he touched the ball and any breaks toward the Latics area were rebuffed by a superb back four.
Scharner almost scored latching onto a defensive mistake before stumbling towards the goal and seeing the ball go agonisingly wide of the post with Reina well beaten
Liverpool`s desperation for all three points showed when Benitez broke up his preferred striking partnership and introduce Voronin with Benayoun coming on for the departing Aurelio
Benayoun proved to be Liverpool`s saviour turning Boyce inside and out before shooting past Kirkland for the games only goal. Indeed even this had a touch of tragedy about it with the shot appearing to take a deflection.
The goal sparked mass celebrations in the North Stand and a few in the other stands which led an approx a dozen people not seeing the end of the match.
Wigan replaced the injured Scharner with the returning Taylor who immediately won a free kick, Koumas shooting over.
As the game went into injury time Latics pressed forward, an inch perfect cross from Koumas was headed wide when it was easier to score.
This about summed up our luck at the moment and served to underline our lack of attacking options and raise questions about the abilities of the strikers available.
Overall this game showed that effort and endeavour are no substitute for class and skill. Only Koumas consistently provided this for us today and we were undone by a substitute who costs more than all our subs put together.
We lack the firepower up front and are missing the creative flair of Valencia and Landzaat.
We have two points from our last fifteen and it is no co-incidence that this poor run co-incides with their absence
Would have fitted into the Liverpool team with easy. Brilliant with either foot and provided all our creative options
Paul Scharner… 6.5 /10
Julius Agahowa 5/10
Jason Koumas… 8.5 /10
Ryan Taylor 6/10
Could have booked Brown earlier but showed common sense. Disallowed the goal on evidence of the assistant referee and therefore cannot be blamed