Gomez: The game changer
It’s not often you can say Wigan had a comfortable afternoon at the DW, but today we came quite close to just that. You have to go as far back as January for the last time Wigan won by more than a goal, and our opponents that day were… Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Mixed omens, then, and the bookies had the visitors as favourites right up until kick off. Actually, they would have remained so until 12:56, the precise point things turned in Wigan’s favour.
Referee Dean Mason set out his stall to give fouls for pretty much any physical contact, making for a stop-start first half somewhat different from last week’s free-flowing, bustling British football at St Andrew’s. Well, as British as you can get with Wigan’s foreign legion, anyway.
Mason’s pickiness was epitomised by the 11th minute sending-off of Karl Henry, a somewhat unsavoury incident which saw Jordi Gomez somersault through the air after a late challenge by the Wolves midfielder. Thankfully no injuries were suffered, though the whole complexion of the 80 minutes to come was changed in this moment.
It was a huge boost for Wigan, whose confidence was visibly lifted. At this point it was actually ten against ten, as Antolin Alcaraz was off the field having stitches in his forehead, and the home side still looked the more likely to score.
Latics never really cottoned on to the officials’ eagerness to penalise anyone and anything in sight, though Wolves exploited it very well. Their final delivery on the whole wasn’t too great, but at least they created some opportunities, which is more than can be said for many teams that go a man down and look to defend for their lives.
The second half was a different story, however, as Latics completely dominated in terms of possession and shots on target. In fact it’s likely we had more of those than in all our previous Prem matches this season, and that’s no joke.
Wigan began to turn the screw, coming close first through Franco Di Santo – whose shot was saved at close range by Wolves Marcus Hahnemann – and Rodallega, both within the first two minutes of the second period. Still no goal, but plenty more promise than our first half attempts. The one-man advantage was starting to tell, and Wolves were starting to run out of ideas as Latics continued to boss things.
Hugo snatched one late on
As far as the second half was concerned, the turning point was Jordi Gomez’ sublime free kick from just outside the area. Could it be that he’s beginning to find his feet at this level? Many will argue it’s taken long enough, but it seems Martinez’ persistent faith in his fellow countryman is starting to be repaid. Indeed, Gomez played all ninety minutes, and has assured himself a place on the teamsheet for Newcastle next week.
From then on Wolves hardly ever had the luxury of possession, and the writing was on the wall when Hugo Rodallega put Latics 2-0 up on 85 minutes. Well, it was more a case of being in the right place at the right time, sticking your leg out and hoping the ball goes over the line, but we shall not begrudge him his goal.
Not even the introduction of ex-Latic Marcus Bent could buy an attempt on target for Wanderers, though Al-Habsi almost gifted the visitors a goal with a sloppy pass late on. Alcaraz scurried back to clear, though, and that was the last action taking place in Latics’ defensive third.
Job done then, and quite well too. In all fairness, you’d have expected Latics to win after the early sending off, but you still have to do the business in the opposition third. We don’t often do that, but thankfully we did this afternoon. For a couple of hours at least, enjoy the fact Wigan are in the top half of the Premier League.