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Chelsea add to Wigan woe

When the Wigan players surrounded referee Mike Jones after Chelsea had opened the scoring at Stamford Bridge yesterday, Jones knew something was wrong.

Branislav Ivanovic was clearly offside when he put the ball in the net and every Wigan player knew it. Jones sensed it, but after he consulted with his linesman, he confirmed the goal.

Wigan fought back, equalised and took the game to Chelsea. Their effort was gigantic and in injury-time, there was more controversy when Juan Mata scored after Fernando Torres' volley came back off the post, hit off Mata's knee and bounced into the net. Replays suggested Mata was offside.

"Somebody asked me is it time to bring in technology; no, it's time to bring in officials who know the rules," Roberto Martinez said afterwards, as he reflected on a bewildering series of decisions, particularly the staggering failure to spot that Ivanovic was offside.

"I felt sorry for the referee today," Martinez said, "he can't give the decision unless his linesman tells him."

Martinez said he found the linesman's performance curious throughout the game. "I was very worried during the game because he wasn't getting easy calls." Martinez spoke of the need for Wigan to be "perfect" when they play at places like Stamford Bridge and he had reason to be proud, even if the officials had undone their good work.

"For me to speak to the officials would be a waste of time," he added.

A point, which was the least Wigan deserved, would have moved Roberto Martinez's side out of the relegation zone. Instead they are second from bottom and with a sense of injustice.

Chelsea didn't deserve to win but did, which isn't always the sign of a good team. "We are in a position where we have to win every game. We are pleased we got three points, even though it wasn't a sparkling performances," Roberto di Matteo said before adding that top teams often won without sparkling performances.

He conceded that Wigan had been "really unlucky" but Chelsea's problem this season has been losing without sparkling performances.

Yesterday's game was probably more important to Chelsea than the tie against Barcelona.

Certainly fourth place is an easier way of reaching next season's Champions League than overcoming Barcelona and winning the competition. Chelsea are now within two points of Arsenal.

But their world could look a lot different in a month and those who back Di Matteo for the job may wonder why if Chelsea end up in fifth and out of the Champions League. The changes then might have to be more radical and Chelsea may not be able to attract the manager they feel entitled to.

Yesterday's performance demonstrated all their problems. Wigan played with five at the back but they showed a bit more adventure than, say, Stoke when they played at Stamford Bridge four weeks ago.

They also seemed to understand their system, which is something that couldn't be said of Chelsea, who were disjointed. The first half was dreadful. Curiously, only Martinez appealed for a penalty when a Shaun Maloney cross came off Gary Cahill's arm.

Chelsea came close to breaking Wigan down just before the interval. First Mata skipped into the box, turned inside Alcaraz, but Ali Al Habsi saved his shot. Drogba headed the rebound towards goal but Maynor Figueroa cleared off the line.

Drogba had ended Wednesday's game in animated conversation with a Benfica official, clearly explaining the intention behind the video showing him mocking fear when the quarter-final draw was made. Barcelona would never be so naive, but their reaction to reaching a semi-final with Chelsea may be a show of mock respect if they view this performance.

Wigan were prepared to stretch Chelsea, with Franco Di Santo and Victor Moses running intelligently in their fluid system. Al Habsi saved again from Drogba before the game was controversially ignited. Raul Meireles played a ball over the Wigan defence, a number of Chelsea players were offside.

Under the law, that no longer mattered, but it did once one of them, Ivanovic, put the ball in the net. The officials knew they'd made a mistake as the linesman showed when he flagged Torres, who had replaced Malouda, offside when he was clearly on. Wigan tried to capitalise. Ryan Bertrand tackled the excellent Moses and then Ivanovic cleared Di Santo's shot on the line.

Chelsea then had a penalty appeal turned down when the ball hit Gary Caldwell on the arm as he jumped with Drogba for a cross. Wigan were pressing and they would have been punished earlier if Torres hadn't slipped twice when played through down the right-hand channel.

But Wigan were playing most of the football. With 20 minutes to go, Mohamed Diame came on and brought more aggression into the play. Against Norwich a few weeks ago, Diame had missed a simple chance to claim all three points when he mis-hit from eight yards.

Yesterday, he brought Wigan back into the game spectacularly. When he gathered the ball on the edge of the Chelsea box, he moved wide, found some space and drove the ball past a hapless Petr Cech.

Wigan were full of confidence and ultimately it brought them down. The superb Caldwell burst forward and hung around when sub Watson crossed, but his shot was easily gathered by Cech.

Caldwell pounded the ground in frustration and then hauled himself back to the defence, but it was too late. Chelsea's swift counter-attack ended at the foot of Torres.

He hit the sweetest volley that bounced off the base of the post. Mata didn't know much about it but it hit off him and went into the net. Wigan had the neutral's sympathy, but it wasn't going to do them any good.

Sunday Indo Sport