Friday 22 September 2017

Agbonlahor finally breaks duck to leave Wigan in mire

Wigan 1
Aston Villa 2

Ashley Young (L) controls the ball in front of Hendry Thomas. Photo: Getty Images
Ashley Young (L) controls the ball in front of Hendry Thomas. Photo: Getty Images

Sandy Macaskill

It has long been suspected that Gabriel Agbonlahor suffers from the footballing strain of Seasonal Affective Disorder. The Aston Villa striker has in the past had a tendency towards hibernation every time the clocks go back, but this season he has got it all back to front, leaving it until now to register his first Premier League goal of the season.

It was a good job this Johnny-come-lately finally arrived, for he made up for a quiet Darren Bent -- exhausted after last week's excitement? -- and, combined with Ashley Young's penalty, gave Gerard Houllier his first back-to-back league wins as Villa manager.

While it hoisted his side to 13th in the league, this result leaves Wigan well and truly in the soup. Roberto Martinez's side have won just one game in 11. It might be time to tighten things up and try to grind out a result for a change.

From almost the first minute it was clear that this was going to be all-or-nothing stuff. Franco di Santo sounded an early warning before space opened up in the area for Bent in the sixth minute. The striker bumbled his shot, though, and it was easily snaffled up by Ali Al Habsi.

threat

Wigan's primary threat should have been Hugo Rodallega. Although sprightly, once in front of goal the forward was off his game.

In the 25th minute the 25-year-old went for power when the situation needed precision, and blew his chance over the bar.

The move which got him there featured some promising interplay, but too often it was interspersed with slipshod passing. Ceding possession and allowing the likes of Ashley Young a sniff of goal and you are asking for trouble.

No sooner had the spectators got their breath back than it was time to start again. Young set off down the wing at pace, Al Habsi doing well to palm over. The goalkeeper did just as well when Carlos Cuellar headed at him from close range off the resulting corner, though his reaction save went to Agbonlahor, loitering with intent and able to nod in from less than a yard.

Wigan's attack were already facing an uphill struggle -- they have scored the fewest in the division -- so Hendry Thomas's oafish challenge on Young in the area -- leg out with hands in the 'don't shoot' position -- was the last thing needed. Young did not waste the opportunity to finish what he started.

Returning Ireland winger James McCarthy gave home supporters hope when his shot in the 80th minute took a heavy deflection off James Collins and settled in the bottom corner. But unlike Agbonlahor, Wigan had left it too late. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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