Match Report by Max Munton
Liverpool’s miserable season continued with a 1-0 defeat to Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium on Monday night.
A Hugo Rodalegga strike shortly before half time subjected the Reds to their ninth league defeat of the season, with no signs of getting anything out of the game.
Rafa Benitez opted to continue to keep Argentine midfielder Javier Mascherano at right-back, with Fernando Torres starting up front.
In came Sotorios Kyrgiakos from a three game ban to partner Jamie Carragher in central defence, whilst Maxi Rodriguez, Yossi Benayoun, Lucas and Kuyt made up the midfield alongside captain Steven Gerrard.
A early chance fell to Gerrard who rather hurridly sent a shot high and wide from 30 yards when he had more time.
That was before Maxi Rodriguez met a corner with a firm header back across goal to find Fernando Torres in space, but from an acute angle the Spaniard’s volley hit the outside of the post.
Wigan’s newly laid pitch caused multiple problems for both teams, slowing the pace of the game and being very sticky. Benitez had signaled his dislike for the new turf shortly before kick-off.
After a lively start from the Reds, the home team began to come into the game around half-way into the first half.
Good work by Charles N’Zogbia on the right side of the Liverpool penalty area saw his low cross flash past the despairing Marceloo Moreno, before Hugo Rodalegga’s free-kick from the edge of the area went way off target.
A weaving run from Yossi Benayoun down the right flank ended with Steven Gerrard getting the ball stuck between his feet and poking a loose ball well wide.
Liverpool were made to pay for their missed chances and sloppy defending saw Dirk Kuyt give away posession easily deep inside the Reds half.
The ball fell to Emmerson Boyce, who’s low cross found Rodalegga in acres of space and the striker had no trouble in slotting past Pepe Reina to give Wigan the lead ten minutes from the end of the first half.
The goal only sparked Wigan into more attacking play as the Reds found themselves in that all too familiar position of chasing the game as, after a wayward Torres head from a Maxi cross, the hosts went into half time one up.
Shortly into the second half, Glen Johnson made his long awaited return to action from 12 games out injured looking to add more life to Liverpool’s flanks.
Moments later a mix-up between Carragher and Reina on the edge of the area saw the ball loop up and head towards the goal. But for a sterling piece of defending from Kyrgiakos heading over on the line, Wigan would have been two-up.
Liverpool began to look more organised as the half progressed, but showed no real signs of danger going forward, even with Alberto Aquilani entering the game – bizarrely for Yossi Benayoun, who had show some attacking threat, with 20 minutes to go.
Wigan undid the Reds defence once more and could have doubled their lead but for frantic chasing back by Carragher, before an acrobatic Torres effort was turned wide by Chris Kirkland in the Wigan goal.
In defence, Kyrgiakos showed signs of solidarity, but gaping holes continued to be exposed by the Latics.
A late, frustrated challenge high up the pitch by Steven Gerrard earnt the Reds skipper Liverpool’s fifth yellow card of the game with Kyrgiakos, Lucas, Insua and Torres also going in the referee’s book.
With just under ten minutes remaining, Benitez brought on Ryan Babel to try and save the day, replacing an under-par Kuyt.
Despite five added minutes of injury time, Liverpool struggled to make any impact up front, spending too long getting the ball forward with desparate balls forward.
Pompey won the reverse of the fixture earlier this season and if the Reds don’t find some firepower from somewhere, chances are they’ll do it again.
Only Wigan’s fourth home win of the season keeps Liverpool in sixth place, a point behind fourth place Tottenham who have a game in hand and a point behind fifth place Man City, who have two games in hand over the Reds.
Dismal is an all too familiar word this season.
Line-ups and Substitions
Wigan Kirkland, Caldwell, Scharner, Boyce, Bramble, Figueroa, N’Zogbia, McCarthy, Diame (Thomas 82), Moreno (Moses 67), Rodallega (Scotland 86).
Subs: Stojkovic, Amaya,Gomez, Sinclair.
Liverpool: Reina, Kyrgiakos, Insua, Carragher, Gerrard, Benayoun (Aquilani 69), Maxi, Mascherano, Lucas (Johnson 55), Torres, Kuyt (Babel 82).
Subs: Cavalieri, Agger, Riera, Ngog.