Match Report: Swansea City 0 Wigan Athletic 0
That little slice of luck that eluded Latics in the first two matches finally turned up in this home win over Queens Park Rangers, the last in a series of three fixtures against newly promoted clubs. It had been Wigan hitting posts against Norwich and Swansea, but QPR managed to do so no less than three times without scoring on Saturday. That statistic flatters the visiting side, however, as Wigan rarely looked in trouble and once Di Santo had netted his first the match was rarely in doubt.
Prior to his two strikes on Saturday, the Argentine had only managed two goals in fifty-odd Premier League appearances, although many of them were made as a substitute, and half under Fat Sam’s management at Blackburn in a system that did not suit his style of play. His goal-scoring record at Audax Italiano, the Chilean team Chelsea poached him from, was decent if not prolific, with 26 goals from 76 appearances. On Saturday, he scored two beauties — albeit with a fortunate deflection on the second — and it might have been a hat-trick but for an excellent save from QPR keeper Paddy Kenny.
Di Santo and Rodallega. Much like Jordi Gomez did last week at Swansea, Di Santo enjoy a breakthrough match, his best in a Wigan shirt. He had already showed encouraging signs in the first two matches, a man with a renewed sense of confidence and purpose. But where he’d failed in those, he succeeded this time around. Against QPR he was dynamic and dangerous, carving out a chance for himself and hammering at Paddy Kenny, before going one better with a sublime volley from the top of the box, and later sealing the match with another top-corner nestler after a slight deflection. Rodallega, meanwhile, looked back to his lively best, making a real nuisance of himself, passing intelligently and running at defenders. He and Di Santo seem to play well together and could be a useful partnership for the rest of the season.
Another clean sheet. Having shipped nine goals to Tottenham two years ago, and ten to Blackpool and Chelsea in their first two matches last year, Latics have come a long way defensively. Two clean sheets — and it would have been three but for Al-Habsi’s unfortunate mistake against Norwich — in three matches bodes well for the season, particularly given the absences of Antolin Alcaraz and Steve Gohouri, two of the club’s best three centre-backs.
I’ll keep this section short because the mission was accomplished with minimal fuss, but Adrian Lopez still looks wobbly at the heart of defense, Al-Habsi made a couple very good saves but looks uncharacteristically timid since his mistake against Norwich. Victor Moses, probably not at 100% having pulled his groin the week before, needs to improve his decision-making once he’s beaten his man. There isn’t a better dribbler in the league at the moment, but it will be important that he focuses on his final pass, or shot, if he is going to fill N’Zogbia’s boots.
Ali Al-Habsi: 7 — Made a couple very good saves, in particular from Taraabt’s deflected free-kick, pushing the ball onto the post and away from goal.
Maynor Figueroa: 6 — Fairly quiet match from the Honduran.
Gary Caldwell: 6 — Solid enough, although his passing was a little off.
Adrian Lopez: 5 — Better than his Norwich nightmare, but still a little wobbly and struggled again with the physical nature of the centre-forward’s game, in this case Patrick Agyemang. That said, he improved as the game went on and lets hope that continues.
Emmerson Boyce: 7 — Reliable, and made an excellent mazy run past several defenders that resulted in a goal-scoring opportunity for the Latics.
Ben Watson: 7 — Did his job fairly quietly in midfield, did not get forward at all, however.
Mo Diame: 6 –The odd moment of invention as is customary, but not much in the way of end product. Good tackling, however.
Jordi Gomez: 7 — Finishing was a little disappointing but it was another step in the right direction. He looks involved, confident, and did a fair bit of defending and tackling.
Victor Moses: 6 — Went past his man a couple times only to waste the final pass or shot, but he will continue to grow as the season goes on. Was probably still suffering the effects of his groin injury suffered against Swansea.
Hugo Rodallega: 8 — Very energetic performance on the left wing from Hugo, who was involved throughout, passed and moved well, and linked up nicely with Di Santo. Strangely, however, he didn’t have any chances or memorable goal attempts.
Franco Di Santo: 9 — His best performance for the club. Two lovely goals, excellent forward play, full of dribbling, passing and effort. Very pleased for him, it’s like having a new signing.
Conor Sammon: 5 — After his exciting contribution at the end of last season, he’s looked a little less flashy this year. Fast, strong and willing, but the team has looked less dangerous when he has replaced Franco Di Santo on the pitch. Didn’t do much wrong, but didn’t create much either.
James McArthur: 6 — Came on and looked at home in midfield, though didn’t contribute too much of note.
Ronnie Stam: Was only on the pitch for a few minutes.