Wigan 1-1 Liverpool
Wednesday, 10th November 2010
Tiredness and fatigue, a lack of squad depth and some questionable tactical decisions cost Liverpool as they surrendered a bright start and a 1-0 lead to eventually escape with a point at the DW Stadium.
A third game in six days seemed to have taken its toll on Roy Hodgson’s limited squad, as the manager surmised in his post-match interview. Having looked so commanding early on, and well capable of sealing a convincing victory which would have lifted Hodgson’s team into the top 5, it was in fact the home side which took most credit from this midweek clash.
The opening exchanges were very encouraging from a Liverpool perspective. The Reds dominated the first 20 minutes of the game and could well have been leading by a greater margin than that provided by Fernando Torres’ 6th minute strike.
Lucas had already tested the athleticism of Wigan goalkeeper, Ali Al Habsi, before Torres’ opener, with a drive from distance. But the opening goal soon followed. Steven Gerrard’s excellent defence-splitting pass released Torres through the centre. The striker held off the challenge of Gary Caldwell to slot coolly past Al Habsi.
The goal gave further evidence of an improved Torres finding his old self again. And, in doing so, granted Liverpool a perfect start on a ground where they have struggled in recent seasons. Yet, Torres was to be starved of quality service throughout the remainder of the game and the Reds did little to improve on recent showings away to Wigan.
Roberto Martinez’s Wigan were affording Liverpool plenty of time and space at this stage and Gerrard almost capitalised soon after the goal. Dirk Kuyt and Torres combined well to finder Gerrard in space in the area. However the ball would not quite sit for the midfielder and he shot over the bar.
From there on in, Liverpool contributed to many of there own problems. Wigan were allowed to gain a foothold in the game and for much of the remainder of the match were able to dictate proceedings. Indeed, following Hugo Rodallega’s 52nd minute equaliser, the Latics often looked the most likely of the sides to go on and find a winner.
Almost everything was going through Charles N’Zogbia for Wigan. The French winger turned up on the left, right and in the centre and was constantly posing Wigan’s main attacking threat.
Lucas was very nearly the architect of his own sides downfall midway through the first half. The Brazilian’s dreadfully mis-placed pass almost allowing Rodallega to capitalise. The Colombian striker was correctly ruled to be marginally offside though, as he raced clear of the visiting defence and squared for N’Zogbia to finish.
The home side ended the half in the ascendancy, without ever genuinely testing Pepe Reina with anything too taxing. And Wigan’s dominance continued after the break.
The Reds were clearly tiring following the exertions of home wins over Napoli and Chelsea. With five first team players missing through injury, Hodgson had opted for an unchanged line-up. And the strength and experience – or lack of it – on Liverpool’s bench provided further evidence of the small size of Liverpool’s current squad.
The Reds, though, were also too keen to sit back and rest on what they had. Wigan were also intent on staying much tighter and closing their opponents down quicker after the break. Hendry Thomas, in particular, dominating in midfield. And Liverpool once again struggled to deal with this tactic. The Reds seeming more and more incapable of stringing a few passes as the match progressed.
Wigan were rewarded for their tenacity with the equaliser on 52 minutes. N’Zogbia – a player who Hodgson would do well to take an interest in come January – was Liverpool’s menace. He found Ronnie Stam, whose ball into the danger zone was initially palmed away by Reina. But only as far as Rodallega, who was on hand to slot home as the Reds failed to clear.
Wigan continued to press after the equaliser and looked the most likely to find a winner. As Liverpool were largely camped in there own half – far too wasteful in possession and lacking outlets up field.
Reina and the defence had to be alert on a few occasions. Not least when Martin Skrtel almost granted Rodallega an invitation for a second; Jamie Carragher was alert to clear. As the Reds continually failed to prevent the hosts from getting balls into the box from wide areas – with Paul Konchesky particularly culpable.
Surprisingly Hodgson chose to introduce rookies JonJo Shelvey and Nathan Ecclestone – at half time and in the closing stages respectively. This at the expense of Milan Jovanovic and, particularly, David N’Gog – who was the one substitute capable of possibly turning the sway of the game in Liverpool’s favour. Two players who have not been over-worked in recent weeks.
Liverpool were relying far to heavily on the talents of Gerrard and Torres to conjure up some magic if they were to find a winner in the second half. The two star men were getting little help from a defensive and/or inexperienced supporting cast.
Although, the Reds came extremely close to salvaging a winner in the closing minutes. For all their efforts, Wigan never came as close as Gerrard to sealing the three points.
Maxi Rodriguez, who’s presence – like Liverpool’s – had faded to near non-existent after a promising start, caught the Wigan defence out with his pass from a Liverpool counter-attack. Gerrard raced through one-on-one with Al Habsi; however his powerful effort cannoned off the underside of the crossbar and agonisingly away from goal.
Ultimately it was a frustrating evening for Reds fans, after the game had promised so much more early on. A draw against a side in the relegation zone somewhat takes the shine off the win over Chelsea. Liverpool will have to produce a much improved performance in another, potentially tough, away game against Stoke City if they are to continue proving their doubters wrong.
Man of the Match
Perhaps not able to have as telling an impact as in recent games, on a frustrating evening. But the captain was still the driving force behind any attempts to salvage something from the game. So nearly snatched a winner at the end as well.