Wigan 0 Arsenal 1: Robbery or something like it

Despite the absence of eight senior players through injury, Wigan Athletic were every bit as good as their illustrious and in-form visitors on Saturday, and their supporters will be entitled to a feeling of injustice after Arsenal ran away with all three points.

Martinez’s men were once again on the wrong end of refereeing decisions that ultimately determined the match’s outcome. First, a soft penalty was awarded after Theo Walcott went down under pressure from Jean Beausejour. Next, Franco Di Santo was refused re-entry to the pitch for a full four minutes after being asked to remove an earring or something of the sort. The incident riled Di Santo up, leading to his substitution minutes later. Referee Jon Moss passed on an opportunity to make things right when Jordi Gomez’s shot clearly struck Kieran Gibbs’ hand before rebounding out.

Refereeing and result aside, this was a very strong performance by Wigan despite a totally makeshift defence. Given the unavailability of his four first choice centre-backs, Martinez alternated between a Maynor Figueroa—Emmerson Boyce partnership, and a trio boosted by the excellent James McCarthy. The Republic of Ireland international was again outstanding, dropping in as a centre-back when the team was on the back-foot, and launching attacks when the team had possession of the ball. It has been a true pleasure to watch his development even if this level of performance will inevitably shorten his stay at the club.

The Good:

Ali-Al Habsi looked back to his best, with some very sharp saves, while Emmerson Boyce and Maynor Figueroa put in excellent defensive shifts. James McCarthy was everywhere, while David Jones had his best match for the club against very high-level opponents and was unlucky not to score the equalizer with a sweetly struck left-foot shot.

The Bad:

Arouna Kone missed badly after skillfully being put through by Di Santo. He later did very well to carve out a second opportunity but shot at the Arsenal keeper’s feet. He needs to start scoring goals.

The wingbacks’ crossing was poor. Beausejour has a bad game in general, against the impressive Oxlade-Chamberlain who skinned him a number of times and limited his forays forward. Ronnie Stam was poor until suddenly coming alive in the last half hour with purposeful running down the right. The heavy conditions probably didn’t help their crossing, but Martinez needs them to start clicking soon.

Player Ratings:

Ali Al-Habsi: 8 – That’s the Ali we know and love.

Emmerson Boyce: 8 – Disciplined and focused in his central role.

Maynor Figueroa: 8 – His best in some time. Wasn’t helped by Beausejour’s bad day, but he covered more than adequately.

James McCarthy: 8 – Excellent work-rate, and often the player to drag the team forward. Becoming a real leader.

Ronnie Stam: 6 – Poor crossing but dramatically improved in the last half hour.

Jean Beausejour: 5 – One to forget.

James McArthur: 7 – Neat, efficient.

David Jones: 8 – Excellent in midfield, didn’t put a foot wrong and almost scored.

Shaun Maloney: 7.5 – Inventive and lively.

Franco Di Santo: 7 – Had no chances, but some nice passing, including a through-ball that should have led to a goal.

Arouna Kone: 5 – Appears to have lost his confidence. Needs a goal.

Subs:

Callum McManaman: Given a big chance but looked unsure of his role and over eager, as he has done in the past. Needs a start when the team is in a more comfortable league situation, to give him time to adapt to the pace and level of play.

Jordi Gomez: Immediately involved despite the late substitution. Had two shots, one of which could easily have been given as a penalty.

Arsenal 1 Wigan Athletic 2: Giant-killers

Any concerns about the bubble being burst were laid to rest in emphatic fashion last night as Latics emerged from a traditionally nightmarish fixture with three points of gold and another famous scalp.

The scoreboard beggared belief after eight minutes of football, during which Franco Di Santo capped off a flowing breakaway and Jordi Gomez stabbed home a Victor Moses cross at the second attempt. Given the club’s dreadful record at the Emirates — no goals scored there since 2007, plenty conceded — this was a sight for sore eyes.

There is much to appreciate about Arsene Wenger, his teams, and his team’s form of late, but there was a dangerous air of arrogance evident in those opening passages of play. When asked about Wigan’s attacking threat a day earlier, the Frenchman err-ed and ahh-ed before mentioning Victor Moses, Emmerson Boyce and Maynor Figueroa. While inadvertently picking out three of Wigan’s top performers on the night, his response implied that he had not watched much of Wigan lately. Figueroa, of course, has been playing as a left-sided centre-back, while Boyce, an excellent defender, has not been a key contributor in attack. And Victor Moses — well, they clearly hadn’t watched enough of his recent play, because he ran rings around them all night.

Whether it was lack of homework or not, when James McCarthy nipped in to initiate a counter-attack on six minutes of play, it was clear Arsenal had committed too many men forward. The midfielder fed Victor Moses, who played Jordi Gomez into space. The Spaniard, back in the team after Shaun Maloney picked up a knee injury in training, threaded the ball into Franco Di Santo’s path, who poked at Arsenal keeper Szechzny, watched the ball balloon over him, then volleyed into the back of the net.

Moments later, with Latics’ first real possession of the match, patient build-up saw Victor Moses superbly spin past Bacary Sagna, drive a low cross into the box towards James McArthur. As with the first goal, the Scotsman’s first effort was blocked, but this time his teammate Gomez was ready to pounce, making it 2-0 after eight minutes of football.

Arsenal were shell-shocked, but quickly regained the initiative, with Tomas Rosicky looking particularly lively. Ali Al-Habsi made a superb flying save from a looping Yossi Benayoun header after sustained pressure. In the 20th minute, Rosicky shed his marker to deliver a beautifully balanced cross onto the on-running Vermaelen’s head. Al-Habsi was paralyzed, but there was little he could do such was the power behind the header.

The next stretch of play was crucial to the match as Arsenal piled on the pressure, urged to shoot on sight by their crowd. First, Van Persie struck a venomous shot straight at Al-Habsi from outside the box. Next, Johan Djorou went a fraction wide with a volleyed effort following a penalty box mixup. The key moment, however, came after James McCarthy — only seconds back on the pitch after receiving treatment for a knock — cheaply gifted Arsenal possession. With Rosicky and Van Persie bearing down on Caldwell and Al-Habsi things looked grim. But the Arsenal men fluffed their lines, not realizing it would be their best chance to equalize for the rest of the evening.

Wigan had a half chance on the stroke of half-time, with Jordi Gomez ballooning a shot from outside the box, but looked relieved to make it through the tunnel with their advantage intact.

The second half was a different beast. Arsenal dominated possession but Wigan defended exceptionally well and created three or four excellent goal-scoring opportunities. Victor Moses, who had already outwitted Bacary Sagna for the second goal, this time out-muscled him, barging into the box only to slam his effort straight at Szechzny. Minutes later, the Nigerian was barreling toward goal following a Maynor Figueroa long-throw, only to rush his shot at the Polish keeper. James McArthur, whose supply of energy and industry is bottomless, broke from his own box to release Moses down the left wing. The winger picked his head up this time, lofting a delightful far-post cross for Jordi Gomez, who mishit with his right boot.

Conor Sammon came on to replace the heroic Franco Di Santo, while Mo Diame relieved Jordi Gomez with about 10 minutes to go. Both subs made excellent contributions, injecting freshness of mind and body, providing relief for their tiring teammates. The big Senegalese midfielder might have added his name to the scoresheet in injury time after skillful dribbling opened up some space at the top of the box, but his left-footed strike failed to trouble Szechzny.

The final whistle predictably started a round of boos at the Emirates, but this was another terrific achievement for the Latics.

The Good:

We have gone from a team that needs 20 chances against weak opposition to score a goal, to a team that only needs one or two against a big team. It’s all down to confidence and a bit of luck. No one knows better than us — having spent most of the season in the relegation zone — that those two go hand-in-hand. It’s a been a pleasure and privilege to watch them come together against the biggest, most talented and most expensively assembled clubs in the land in recent weeks. The commentator assigned to the Manchester United match pointed out that Wigan’s entire starting XI costthe club  less than United’s Spanish goalkeeper David De Gea.

It’s now four wins out of five, including Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United. The 2-1 loss against Chelsea famously involved two offside goals. This is quite simply the best run of results and performances Wigan Athletic has seen at this level.

The defending had been absolutely terrific. Maynor Figueroa played the perfect match yesterday. Caldwell and Alcaraz were outstanding. Boyce and Beausejour plugged the wings. McCarthy and McArthur put in their usual shift. Di Santo works as hard for the team as any striker in the league.

No injuries or suspensions. Arsenal fouled us more than we fouled them.

The Bad:

Ironically — save for the goals — the first half was one of our weaker performances for a while. Understandable, playing away against an in-form Arsenal side. But the passing was at times sloppy, and we rode our luck in the period after Vermaelen’s goal.

Conclusions:

If you’d told me we’d get 6 points from 9 against Chelsea (away), Man United (home) and Arsenal (away) — with each of these clubs under pressure to get results for the title or a Champions League place — I wouldn’t have known how to respond. All the frustration from good performances earlier in the season that went without reward has been channeled into these characters wearing Wigan shirts. Their focus, determination, and talent is a delight to watch. Hard to imagine a prouder moment as a Latics supporter.

That said, we’re not quite there yet. The league table looks rosy, with Wolves pretty much already down and Blackburn six points behind, an inferior goal difference, and Chelsea and Spurs away in two of their last four matches. QPR also have a very difficult run-in against Chelsea, Spurs, Stoke and Man City — but like us, have produced results against the big teams that they have struggled to obtain against weaker opposition. Bolton may escape, with six winnable games to play, though they will have to improve dramatically. We face in-form sides Fulham and Newcastle, before a big one away at Blackburn, and Wolves on the final day of the season. Based of our rivals’ fixtures, three more points should do it. But there are surely a few more twists and turns to come. Lets hope Roberto’s men can maintain their superb form for another unforgettable end-of-season flourish.

Player Ratings:

Ali Al-Habsi: 9 — Made one amazing save from a Benayoun header, and several more important blocks throughout the game. Missed a punch for one scary moment in the second half, but the man is in inspirational form. He gives his the defense and team confidence from the back.

Antolin Alcaraz: 9 — Classy, strong defender in the best form of his Wigan career.

Gary Caldwell: 9 — Did what no one else in the league has been able to do this season — kept Van Persie quiet. The Dutch striker, in jaw-dropping form of late, was limited to a couple shots from outside the box.

Maynor Figueroa: 9.5 — Hard to single out a man of the match in such a team performance, but if there is one it was him. Five or six breathtaking sliding challenges, all perfectly timed, to deny Arsenal goal-scoring opportunities. Excellent in possession, and cool as you like bringing the ball out of defense. Even managed to contribute what might have been an assist for a third goal from a long throw-in. We’re docking 0.5 points for the dangerous challenge on Theo Walcott in the second half that might have led to a red card, if a foul had been given.

Emmerson Boyce: 9 — Fantastic defensive performance. In truth, the wing-backs ended up playing more as traditional full-backs in this match. Boycey’s tackling and work-rate was great.

Jean Beausejour: 9 — Looked less comfortable in possession than usual, but did some amazing defending, keeping Theo Walcott under control most of the match. Showed he can defend.

James McArthur: 8.5 — A bulldog in midfield. Was everywhere.

James McCarthy: 8.5 — Started the attack that led to the first goal. Made one mistake that could have proven costly, but put his usual hard-working but shift in, with a touch of class in his passing here or there.

Jordi Gomez: 9 — Many were concerned when Shaun Maloney’s absence was confirmed, but the Spaniard responded by setting up Di Santo for the first goal, and scoring the second himself. Squandered a real chance in the second half, but made a crucial contribution.

Victor Moses: 9 — Ran rings around Arsenal, as he had done to Manchester United and Chelsea before that. Finishing still needs a bit of work, although his cross for the second goal was great, as was the lofted ball he played Jordi in the second half.

Franco Di Santo: 9 — Very pleased for the Argentine, who finally got the goal his effort and skill deserved. Brilliant target man play, rarely loses the ball. Rodallega is going to have a hard time breaking back into this lineup.

Roberto Martinez: 10 — When things were looking very grim indeed, towards the end of 2011, our manager decided to temporarily scrap his beloved 4-5-1 / 4-3-3 for a wing-back system that can look like a 3-5-2 or a 3-4-3 depending on the players on the pitch. It immediately produced improved performances, most of which ended frustratingly in draws. But he stuck to it, brought in a player who truly specializes in that wing-back position, and has enjoyed the amazing improvement since. Roberto said we would beat Manchester United this season, that we would shed that “mental block” against the big teams. He was right.

Subs:

Conor Sammon: 8 — Great sub appearance, running around like a madman but also looking a useful outlet up front.

Mo Diame: 9 — Really enjoyed his 10 minutes on the pitch, skipping and dancing past Arsenal players as though they were training cones. Might have done better with an injury time effort — or might have walked it to the corner flag to ease our nerves! — but he is one hell of a useful substitute to bring on.

Wigan Athletic 1 Manchester United 0: Brilliant Latics finally get their reward

An inspirational Wigan Athletic performance characterized by confidence, style and determination earned the club its first ever win against Manchester United last night. Roberto’s men were thoroughly dominant until taking the lead, and resolute in their defense of it. United were limited to one shot on target and three corners, something I doubt any other club has managed this season.

It is hard to recall a prouder moment. This sort of form has been building for some time now. We deserved points at Stamford Bridge last weekend, and have now suffered from three unfairly disallowed goals in two matches. But there is real belief in this squad, from back to front. Indeed, before the famous wins of late we had outplayed Norwich, West Brom, Aston Villa and Everton without burying them. It is amazing what a bit of confidence does for you — goals are suddenly popping up from all sorts of places, from the center of defense, to super-subs, to the excellent and invigorated Shaun Maloney.

Roberto Martinez’s vision appears to be finally coming together. His team has shed the defensive fragility that cost us in the first half of the season with his three-man centre of defense. The Alcaraz-Caldwell-Figueroa axis gets stronger every match and has wonderful balance. His deployment of Emmerson Boyce as the right wingback — a decision questioned by some of us due to Ronnie Stam’s excellent mid-season form — has allowed him to seamlessly switch to a 4-5-1 when the team needs to re-gain possession or push forward in numbers. Jean Beausejour must go down in history as our best ever January transfer window signing, making a huge contribution in a problem position. Shaun Maloney has injected verve and direct, attacking play in his advanced midfield role.  The squad is strong, with replacements for just about everyone in the squad.

Wigan started this match with clear attacking intent. James McCarthy had a left-footed rocket tipped over the bar by De Gea; the lively Victor Moses zigzagged into the box only to smash his curled effort off Rio Ferdinand’s behind; James McArthur was first to every ball, while Antolin Alcaraz enjoyed a remarkable attacking performance with frequent surging runs. United threatened only twice; first through Chicharito Hernandez, who failed to sneak past Gary Caldwell, and later through Ryan Giggs, whose outside-of-the-boot cross was deflected for a corner by Maynor Figueroa. But the first half was really all Wigan, and pressure finally told when Victor Moses rose to head a Shaun Maloney cross into the back of the net. Celebrations ensued, with Phil Dowd appearing to give the goal, only for the linesman to call the goal back moments later. Latics had been denied a goal once again — the third in less than 90 minutes — by a linesman. This time, Gary Caldwell was adjudged to have impeded David De Gea’s path to the ball. Replays showed the Wigan man did nothing but stand his ground, and was in fact shoved toward De Gea by a United player. Martinez was furious, and Dowd’s reception by the crowd at half-time was not one he’ll have savoured.

Tom Cleverley was brought on in an attempt to regain possession, but Wigan started the second half as they ended the first. Jean Beausejour was busy down the left and his slightly clumsy attempt to get a cross past Johnny Evans while falling over was incorrectly given a corner. With the linesman on the other side of the pitch it was certainly a tough one for the referee — only one or two of the five or six camera angles in slow motion replay made it clear the ball had indeed bundled off Beausejour’s leg. But there was no question about what ensued. Shaun Maloney received a short pass, dummied past Rooney and sensationally curled the ball past De Gea to give his team the lead. This time the flags stayed down, and Latics celebrated.

The rest of the match was largely an exercise in patient, organized defending. That Wigan only picked up one yellow card — Di Santo for dissent after himself being fouled — is truly remarkable. There was no lunging, no diving in. There were tense moments, but the team was organized and never looked like falling apart. United had one or two half-chances, with Danny Wellbeck breaking but forced to shoot from a wide angle, and Nani causing a bit of panic with quick footwork and a low cross. But if anything, Latics had clearer chances to increase their lead than United did to equalise. Conor Sammon, on for Maloney, went on a fantastic run down the left wing and into the box, laying off neatly for Diame, who had an effort blocked before squaring to Moses, whose shot deflected wide. The Nigeria international was a constant threat with his strength and running.

It took five minutes of injury time, but the final whistle went and Wigan supporters from the DW to Jakarta and Boston jumped up and down to the tune of “We-Are-Staying-Up-WE-ARE-STAYING-UP!”

The Good:

Everything from the quality of football played, to the confidence it was played with, the effort and desire. The pride for the shirt. The support.

The Bad:

Nothing except the understandable signs of fatigue after two outstanding performances against the two most successful British teams of recent times.

Refereeing Decisions:

Lets get the facts straight amid media coverage of Fergie’s complaints. There were two controversial decisions each way. We had a goal disallowed incorrectly, and Johnny Evans should have been sent off for a second yellow card offense. They should have had a goal-kick instead of a corner, and did not get a penalty when a driven ball deflected off the sliding Maynor Figueroa’s leg, onto his arm. What would you rather have — 1-0 against 10 men? Or a goal-kick and a penalty?

Not Over Yet:

This was an unforgettable football match for all associated with the club, and we’re all buzzing with pride. But the relegation battle is tight. QPR beat Swansea and remain above us on goal difference. Bolton are two behind but have a game in hand. Blackburn are only three adrift. Save the Carling Cup memories of our first season, Arsenal away is typically a nightmare fixture for us, and could be a wake-up call. Specially with tired legs from last night’s exertions. Newcastle’s form is unbelievable, and Fulham have real quality this season. So there is a long road ahead. McArthur and Martinez himself came out with appropriate “Lets keep our feet on the ground” quotes this morning. Lets hope we can do it. If this level of performance can be sustained for five more matches, it will be an enjoyable month and a half — but it’s a big ask.

Player Ratings:

Ali Al-Habsi: 8 — Only had to make one save, but it was an important one from a low Danny Wellbeck shot.

Antolin Alcaraz: 9 — Outstanding in defense, but also got forward to good effect in the first half. Looked as comfortable on that ball as anyone.

Gary Caldwell: 9 — The captain is becoming a fan favorite. Clean sheet against Man United.

Maynor Figueroa: 9 — Fantastic from the Honduran. Took a few knocks. Has really thrived in the left-centre-half role.

Emmerson Boyce: 8 — Didn’t get forward as much as Beausejour, but kept Ashley Young out of the game.

Jean Beausejour: 8.5 — Caused trouble down the left in the first half, defended strongly in the second. Kept Valencia relatively quiet.

James McArthur: 9 — It’s amazing how much ground this fella covers. First to every ball. Sets an example.

James McCarthy: 8.5 — Neat in possession, a good left-footed strike. Pace and power in midfield.

Shaun Maloney: 9 — Brilliant. Troubled United all game with his stepovers and flicks. In the same position, Jordi would pass the ball sideways far too often. Maloney is direct, positive, confident. What a finish.

Victor Moses: 8.5 — Deserved a goal for his hard work. Ran his socks off with good skill, though lacked a cool head with the final shot on occasion.

Franco Di Santo: 8 — His work ethic and target man play are simply fantastic. If only we could all chip in and buy him a goal.

The Twelfth Man: 10 — The supporters are behind the team more than ever, and it shows. From those who have been gathering at the stadium hours early to greet the team as they arrive, to the Washington DC supporters club at Lucky Bar, and my amazing wife (chair of the Figueroa Fan Club) who has to try and watch these matches as her maniacal husband shouts, drools, laughs and cries his way through them. Lets enjoy this moment and keep it up for the remaining five fixtures.

Subs:

Mo Diame: 7 — Brought on for the tiring Franco Di Santo, who had also taken a few knocks, to help regain possession. Took about 10 minutes to get into the game, such was the pace of it. Unlucky to have his shot blocked, did some good tackling.

Conor Sammon: 8 — Great sub appearance by the big man, putting in the miles but also showing some skill on a mazy run that might have ended in a second (or third) goal.

Chelsea 2 Wigan Athletic 1: False result as Latics once again fall victim to unfair refereeing decisions

Twice this season, a match official has made a footballing decision so horribly incorrect that they were suspended from duty in the ensuing fixture. The first was Andre Marriner, the referee who allowed Morten Gamst Pedersen to simply run the ball in from the corner flag, producing a goal that denied Wigan Athletic a crucial three points against Blackburn Rovers. The second was linesman Dave Bryan, who on Saturday gifted Chelsea three points by allowing two offside goals to stand. Again, the victim was Wigan Athletic, who would have escaped the relegation zone with one point from this match, let alone the three they deserved.

Back in December, Wigan Athletic suffered from another blatantly incorrect decision when Conor Sammon was sent off against Manchester United for very minimal contact with Michael Carrick. When the club appealed the suspension, the FA acknowledged its mistake and rescinded the suspension, something they do not make a habit of doing. A token gesture, I suppose, but once again, Wigan emerged with no points.

Two of these incidents were so bad the Premier League decided to suspend the officials. It’s no surprise they both happened to Wigan. We are, after all, the only team in the history of hte league to have to face 1) the newly promoted teams in back-to-back fixtures on the first three gameweeks, when they are typically at their strongest 2) the traditional top four in a five match stretch.

If these refereeing “blunders” had happened — not that they would — to a wealthier, more influential team, there would surely be talk of re-playing the matches. While there was plenty of media coverage about the Pedersen incident and Chelsea’s victory on the weekend, nothing has been done about either situation to recompense Wigan the lost points they so desperately need.

While any conspiracy about the Premier League wanting rid of little Wigan and its relatively small crowds and TV market is hard to prove, the evidence available certainly points in that direction.

But lets face it — there’s probably more to it than that. First of all, there’s human error. Bigger clubs have bigger stadiums, officials are human and react to noise, abuse and threats. It’s also certainly not outside the realm of possibility that Chelsea’s billionaire owner Roman Abramovich — so keen on winning the Champions League — played some part in linesman Bryan’s decision-making on Saturday as his team desperately needed those three points to remain in the race for fourth place. After all, Chelsea also got a very soft penalty against Fulham last night, although it wasn’t enough to get them three points.

The tragedy is that Wigan is playing the best football it has ever played, and at the highest level. The team was outstanding against Chelsea from back to front, full of culture and quality, solidity and belief. The performance, as have many of the last 7-8, merited three points or at the very least a valuable away point against a Champions League semi-finalist.

Next up, Manchester United. If any good comes of Saturday’s disgrace, it’ll be a fair match on Wednesday. We may have conceded three illegal goals in our last two visits to Stamford Bridge, but it’s even worse against United. In addition to Conor Sammon’s bizarre sending off this season, Wayne Rooney was allowed to continue on the pitch after elbowing James McCarthy in the face last year, and Antolin Alcaraz and Hugo Rodallega were harshly sent off in the fixture before that.

It will be interesting to see how Roberto Martinez — by some distance the most eloquent and well-mannered professional in the division — is treated in the wake of his post-match comments. The Spaniard rightly vented his frustration after the match but such an approach has backfired in the past, to Paul Jewell in particular in that second season up. Given the fact that Manchester United have recently benefited from a blatantly incorrect penalty and red card decision, and Wigan have been robbed of points for two of them, one would hope whoever is given the task on Wednesday will be instructed to give — if anyone — Wigan Athletic the rub of the green.

At the end of the day, the fact is if we had the points we deserved from the Blackburn game or the Chelsea game, in which the FA deemed the official’s decisions so bad as to be punishable, we’d be closer to Aston Villa than to Bolton in the league table.

Match Report:

By now, you know what happened. But I’ll refer you to This Northern Soul’s report for a refresher.

The Good:

Everything but the result. It has been so enjoyable to watch the Latics recently and a source of real pride. The team performance was outstanding. Defensive solidity with outstanding goalkeeping. Good midfield passing which only improved when Ben Watson and Mo Diame came on, also highlighting a depth our squads have never had. These players are giving it their all, and playing with some style. Our direct rivals all lost — Bolton twice — so we didn’t lose any further ground in the table. No injuries or suspensions, minus Hugo Rodallega’s ongoing complaint.

The Bad:

The players must be gutted. Lets hope Roberto can use the sense of injustice from this most recent match as a motivator for the even bigger Manchester United fixture.  Only six games left, two of them against top teams.

Player Ratings:

Ali Al-Habsi: 9 — Made four or five absolutely sensational saves in this match.

Maynor Figueroa: 8 — Very good defensive performance despite giving away a couple dangerous free-kicks.

Gary Caldwell: 8.5 — Once again a titan at the back. Almost won it for the Latics again in the last minute only to find himself sprinting the length of the pitch to try and prevent the goal at the other end. Which shouldn’t have stood anyway.

Antolin Alcaraz: 9 — His best performance of the season, he frustrated Drogba and stood strong in one-on-one defending. His distribution out of the back has also been very strong of late.

Emmerson Boyce: 7 — Unable to get forward but had his hands full and defended solidly.

Jean Beausejour: 7.5 — Showed some nice touches but was also limited in his forays forward, save one or two nice deliveries.

James McArthur: 8 — Put in the shift we have come to expect of him. Also played a delicious defense-splitting pass in the first half.

James McCarthy: 8 — Burst dangerously from midfield in the first half, something we’d love to see more of. His physical power and energy was very important.

Shaun Maloney: 7.5 — Involved in most of Latics best attacking play, he has continued to breathe fresh air and imagination into our attacking work.

Victor Moses: 9 — Chelsea had to foul him every time he got the ball. His running and dribbling was outstanding, though he was frequently isolated.

Franco Di Santo: 7 — Played his target man role well and had one golden chance to equalise after Chelsea’s first goal. What a shame it didn’t go in.

Subs:

Ben Watson: 8 — Came on as a part of a tactical switch back to the 4-5-1 / 4-3-3 line-up and showed his quality, passing the ball well and helping Wigan regain possession of the ball.

Mo Diame: 8 — Injected energy, dribbling and pace into the midfield, and scored an excellent left-footed goal to level the score.

Conor Sammon: 6 — Ran and worked hard but doesn’t have the skill on the ball Di Santo has.