The first goal is important enough in matches like these between teams on the same points tally, but when it comes with a red card to one of your centre-backs away from home, it’s game, set and match. Especially when your three first choice centre-backs are already missing through injury.
The foul itself was nothing much and may not even have been given in other circumstances. But it also wasn’t egregious enough to launch any kind of appeal, which means Wigan will be without yet another defender for the upcoming home fixture against QPR. The second goal knocked the stuffing out of Latics, but despite a spirited start to the second half, the game was done and dusted with a wonder strike against the run of play.
Latics’ second half response was very good. Despite being down to 10 men, Roberto’s men looked the better team until the third goal flew in. Ronnie Stam’s attacking performance in the second half was outstanding and he was the team’s most creative player. Adrian Lopez, introduced at half-time for an off-the-pace Gary Caldwell, enjoyed another good performance and will surely start against QPR unless there are multiple recoveries in the interim. No injuries.
Maynor Figueroa has been lucky with 50-50s in the box this season and his penalty karma finally caught up with him. It may not have warranted both penalty and red card, but it effectively lost his team the match.
Ali Al-Habsi’s confidence is a worry. It is harsh to blame him for the second goal, although he could have parried the ball away from the onrushing Demba Ba. But he looked uncharacteristically wobbly throughout.
Latics’ at times looked shellshocked and clueless. While this was most frustrating in the first half, there was a moment in the second when a free-kick in a promising position was played sideways, then backwards, ending up at Ali Al-Habsi’s feet. Even the Newcastle crowd didn’t know what to make of it. We Martinez’s instructions, at that point (3-0 down), simply to keep the ball and limit the severity of the defeat?
Gary Caldwell’s return was more than a little bit wobbly, and he was fortunate not to have been sent off for a clumsy tackle in the first half. He’ll need to be stronger if he is to lead a makeshift defence for the next few fixtures.
Ali Al-Habsi: 5 — His weakest form I can remember. The mistake against Reading was bizarre, but ultimately not a problem. The mistake against City was less severe but more important, tipping the encounter in City’s favour. Today’s performance was jittery. Some will argue the second goal was his fault. He needs a couple big saves to regain composure.
Emmerson Boyce: 7 — One of the better performers, didn’t let anyone down at right centre-half.
Gary Caldwell: 5 — One to forget. Was probably rushed back due to the defensive injury list. Substituted at half-time for Adrian Lopez.
Maynor Figueroa: 4 — His red card and penalty so early in the game left Latics with too steep a mountain to climb.
Ronnie Stam: 8 — A bright attacking performance from the Dutchman. Served a peach of a ball into the box that Di Santo watched sail by. Got past his man with intelligent movement and trickery, and was involved in all of Latics’ positive attacking play.
Jean Beausejour: 5 — Played most of the game at left centre-half, which was a big ask. Sloppy in possession.
James McCarthy: 6 — Had a lot of work to do but got frustrated and let it affect his football.
Dave Jones: 6 — Passed the ball well and threaded a nice ball through that Kone was unable to control.
Jordi Gomez: N/A — Substituted after the red card to allow tactical re-shuffle.
Franco Di Santo: 6 — Some bright running in first half and his usual work-rate, but was nowhere near any Stam’s crosses.
Arouna Kone: 5 — On his own most of the time, but took heavy touches more than usual and never managed to thread Krul.
James McArthur: 7 — Neat in possession, good tackling — had a decent match.
Adrian Lopez: 7 — Looked comfortable and no fault in the third goal.