Who would have thought that Jordi Gomez would come to Wigan Athletic’s rescue, winning this game for the Latics with a brilliant hat trick? Even the most fair and open-minded of Latics supporters had been getting to the point where they would wince to see Gomez’ name on the team sheet. The same happened yesterday when Franco Di Santo was relegated to the bench, Gomez taking his place in the starting lineup.
The first half went true to recent form as Wigan conceded another headed goal from a long cross to the far post, to put them in a losing situation at half time. Gomez was booed early on following misplaced passes and poor finishing. In contrast Jean Beausejour was having an excellent game and in the 26th minute he put in a brilliant cross that had “goal” written all over it. However, Arouna Kone somehow managed to head it wide. A few minutes later Gomez slipped an incisive short pass through to Kone, who was blocked by the goalkeeper but managed to keep his footing sufficiently to jab the ball towards goal. The end result was the ball being blocked by a defender, rather than Kone going down for the penalty he would surely have got. Gomez was back to showing us his frustrating side just before half time, showing considerable skill in manoevering past defenders before shooting wide. Wigan went into half time trailing to the giant Morrison’s free header, their own profligacy in front of goal preventing them from drawing even.
The second half saw Franco Di Santo come on to replace Shaun Maloney and this turned out to be an inspired substitution. Jordi Gomez brought Wigan back in the game with two well taken goals, the second being a diving header. In between Gomez’ goals, Di Santo had scored a well taken goal from another fantastic Beausejour cross, but referee Howard Webb disallowed it for offside, which it clearly was not. Wigan were leading 2-1 with just over 10 minutes left when Reading equalized with the kind of own goal from Ali Al Habsi that will give him nightmares for weeks to come. It was a familiar situation for Wigan supporters, seeing all that good work ruined by an individual defensive lapse. It had only been a few minutes earlier that Al Habsi himself had singlehandedly kept Wigan ahead with fabulous fingertip save from a Reading header.
When the 90th minute expired it went into three minutes of added time. It looked like a case of sharing the points with a side who had been inferior for most of the game. Most of the danger from Reading had come from high balls and crosses. Wigan were playing the better football. After a minute of added time Gomez surged through from the centre of midfield, putting through a lovely pass for Kone to run on to. Intelligent player that he is, Kone kept his composure and squared the ball to Gomez who had continued his run. Gomez swept the ball home with panache.
In the minds of many Wigan Athletic supporters Jordi Gomez had never quite proved that he could handle the transition from the Championship to the Premier League. Too often he would get himself into great scoring positions, but not have the composure to put the ball in the net. Yesterday’s encounter will be remembered as the day that Gomez showed the Wigan fans that his manager’s faith in his abilities was justified. In the second half of this match Gomez looked a class act, threading through good passes and taking his chances with great aplomb.
At times Latics played champagne football. They were technically superior to Reading, even if the visitors were physically impressive. Gomez is the obvious candidate for ‘Man of the Match’, but Jean Beausejour gave a brilliant display as a wing back. He has been a little short of his best in most games this season, but yesterday he defended well and his crossing was superb.
Latics’ injury woes continued, Shaun Maloney coming off at half time and captain Ivan Ramis five minutes later. However, Franco Di Santo proved to be an excellent substitution for Maloney, causing headaches for the visitors defence with his movement and intelligent passing. Adrian Lopez came on for Ramis and played his best game so far for the club – he looked decisive in his tackling and comfortable on the ball.
Giving away another goal to a free header provides further cause for concern. Granted Sean Morrison is 6 ft 5 in tall, but nevertheless nobody in the Wigan defence competed with him for the ball. The best header of the ball at the club – Antolin Alcaraz – remains out injured. In the meantime the defensive unit needs to work on attacking the high balls that come in.
Ali Al Habsi: 5 – all goalkeepers make mistakes. Made one outstanding save, but was lucky with a first half shot that nearly bobbled past him.
Ronnie Stam: 6 – not so strong in defence as in attack, but as lively as ever.
Emmerson Boyce: 6 – solid and dependable at the back.
Ivan Ramis: 6 – excellent distribution. Went off after 49 minutes.
Maynor Figueroa: 5.5 – solid, but lucky not to get another penalty decision against him in the second half.
Jean Beausejour: 9 – his best game ever for Latics. Always available on the wide left, worked really hard in attack and defence. Put in some sublime crosses.
James McCarthy: 7 – worked hard, totally committed as always. Solid in defence and supportive in attack. The ultimate team player.
David Jones: 7 – worked really hard, put nice passes through with his cultured left foot.
Shaun Maloney: 6 – buzzed around as usual, putting in nice short passes. Went off at half time.
Jordi Gomez: 9 – silenced his critics, his brilliant finishing won the game for Wigan. Also put in incisive passes. His best ever game for his club.
Arouna Kone: 6 – had two first half chances that he should have scored. However, as selfless as ever, putting in another afternon of hard toil. The vision he showed in making the pass for Gomez’ winner showed what a class performer he is.
Franco Di Santo: 7 – showed what a class act he can be after coming on after half time. Creative, skilled, intelligent – a high class player in the making.
Adrian Lopez: 7– took over the Gary Caldwell role in the centre of the back three. Handled it with aplomb.
James McArthur: – came on for David Jones after 79 minutes.