Thursday 22 February 2018

Baines back to haunt Wigan with costly late equaliser

Wigan 1 Everton 1

It looks like Wigan Athletic might finally be going down this time. They cannot hang on to a lead, never mind their Premier League status. They should have won this game against a half-interested Everton, and led for most of it, but ended up squandering the points through gifting their toothless visitors a needless penalty. Everton had already missed one, and Wigan were not about to get lucky again. Frankly, they did not deserve to.

When Steve Round, Everton's assistant manager, said Wigan would get out of trouble if they continued to play in that manner, he was either being kind, diplomatic or putting a gloss on his own side's failings. It is playing in that manner, carefree bordering on careless and failing to close out games when they have the chance, that has brought Wigan to the edge of the precipice.

"Football is a game of errors," Roberto Martinez suggested, adding that Hugo Rodallaga was devastated by his mistake. "He had cleared several corners superbly before then, it was just an unfortunate mistake through trying too hard. We could do without giving two penalties away in the same game but at least we got a point. That's the way I look at it. We couldn't afford to lose."

The game burst into life midway through the first half when Charles N'Zogbia gave Wigan the lead. James McCarthy made the opening by extending an already good move with a peach of a pass to put N'Zogbia through on goal, although the winger's first touch let him down and Wigan were appealing for a penalty for a rash challenge by Tim Howard when N'Zogbia calmly regathered the ball to turn and score from a narrower angle than first anticipated.

With Everton continuing to be unproductive in attack, Wigan were good value for their lead for most of the first half, though they were indebted to Ali Al-Habsi, not for the first time this season, when N'Zogbia gave away a soft penalty 10 minutes before the interval. Al-Habsi guessed right and dived to his left to save Mikel Arteta's not particularly well-placed penalty.

Instead of being grateful, however, Wigan asked Al-Habsi to do it all again late on. Baines, in particular, was having a match to forget against his former club, with a couple of clueless free-kicks in the second half as well as a two occasions on which he was embarrassed by Victor Moses.

But when he swung over a routine corner 12 minutes from time Rodallega, supposedly back to help his defence, inexplicably wafted at the ball with his arm and from the resultant spot-kick Baines gave Al-Habsi no chance with a venomous drive into the top corner. True, Wigan had lost both N'Zogbia and Mohamed Diame to thigh injuries by then, but the home side never looked as though they knew whether to stick or twist once they went in front.

If a point was more than Everton deserved, it was all Wigan were due. Moses brought two good saves from Howard in as many minutes in the second half, although with a clear sight of goal each time the substitute striker needed to do more than simply work the goalkeeper.

Right at the end there was a chance for Rodallega, yet given a shot at redemption he produced only a shot that blazed high over the bar. Fans can laugh about that sort of thing at the start of a season, but games and opportunities are running out for Wigan, and unless they can stop giving points away not even their final home game against West Ham will come to their rescue.

"Three points will probably not be enough anyway," Martinez said. "We will probably need more than one result to get out of this, but the squad is ready and we feel we can take points off anyone."


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