The Midas touch: Franco Di Santo
Latics hauled themselves into sixth place, albeit for the time being, with a solid victory over their west London opponents in changeable conditions at the DW Stadium. Franco Di Santo warranted his place in the starting line-up, grabbing a brace to take his tally for the club to three, but it wasn’t quite as comfortable a victory as the scoreline might suggest – far from it, in fact.
Wigan were out of the blocks quickly and the returning Hugo Rodallega won a free kick on the edge of the opposition area within two minutes of the kick-off. Jordi Gomez sent the resulting strike just wide of Paddy Kenny’s left hand post, but the hosts continued to exhibit an attacking intent that sent out a message that they weren’t about to defend for their lives, as seemed to be the case at points last week.
This bolder strategy enjoyed a modicum of success, Victor Moses coming closest in the early stages with a cross/shot flashed across the face of goal. It wasn’t without its flaws, however, and allowed the visitors to play some football in the Latics half. Al Habsi was first forced into a save from John Derry, then saw Taarabt rattle his left hand post as QPR began to assert themselves with some gusto.
The game was now settling down into an even contest as Latics continued to pass well in the opposition half, almost carving out some superb chances for Moses and Di Santo. The latter soon found himself on the scoresheet after being fed wonderfully by Rodallega. The Argentine set himself up for a fantastically placed strike into the top right hand corner of the North Stand goal, leaving Kenny with no chance and doubling his competitive tally for the club.
Wigan looked to slow things down and retain some possession, but the half wasn’t over yet. Adel Taarabt crashed an injury time free kick onto Al Habsi’s left hand post –the very same upright he had hit in the tenth minute– via the Omani’s palm. A well-juiced pitch made for a slippery ball, and Wigan’s No. 1 (well, 26 actually) did well to prevent it from crossing the line. Rangers were mere inches away from going into the break level, and will feel unlucky not to have done so.
Victor Moses played well despite not being 100% fit
Latics once again emerged the hungrier, and enjoyed plenty of time on the ball as they looked to double their lead. After a Buzsaky free kick in the earlier stages of the half, the visitors saw little possession until some twenty minutes later when Moses and Di Santo left the field.
Franco Di Santo saw his 60th minute shot well saved by Kenny, but wouldn’t have to wait too long for another chance to add to his goal. Just five minutes later, the Argentine intercepted a pass surely meant for an advancing Rodallega, but redeemed himself by finding the top corner via a considerable deflection off the back of Bruno Perone.
Wigan gradually moved down through the gears, the introduction of McArthur and Sammon signalling a slightly more defensive formation. Though Latics were two goals to the good, twenty minutes remained and the game was not yet won. The visitors switched to a more attacking set up and put the Wigan goalmouth under some pressure, Perone coming closest as he headed onto the bar from a corner, the visitors’ second in succession. Apart from this, however, the vast majority of attempts failed to threaten the Wigan goal, Al Habsi only really made to work on one occasion.
Conor Sammon, who took up the sole striker role after Di Santo’s departure, enjoyed quite a bit of possession in the QPR half as the visitors pushed ever forward, but found himself without support more often than not as bodies flooded back to defend the 2-0 lead. Hugo Rodallega almost ran himself into the ground and perhaps deserved a goal for himself, but made a real impact in his first start of the season, especially in the first part of the second half.
Ronnie Stam was introduced with less than ten minutes to play, the impressive Gomez making way on 85. QPR were now unable to find the target as more misfired shots rained in on the Wigan goal, and when the game entered three minutes of injury time it was all but over.
Diame was enterprising as usual, commanding centre midfield
Latics will be pleased to chalk up their first win of the season and more than satisfied with the way in which they attacked, especially with a selection of players not fully fit. Rodallega, as previously mentioned, started to puff and pant a little as the game drew to a close, but on the whole played superbly. Victor Moses, too, was integral to much of Wigan’s attacking play, holding up the ball and picking his passes to great effect. Still no goal for the Nigerian, but I feel his forward presence will yield quite a few in the months to come.
Al Habsi was almost faultless in the Wigan goal, only guilty of one or two bits of miscommunication with Adrian Lopez. He made three good saves, and more than deserved his second clean sheet in a row — just think, it could easily have been three. Emmerson Boyce also warrants a mention for his work on the right wing, and was the source of many a threatening ball into the danger area.
It wasn’t a perfect display, but then you’re never going to realistically achieve that unless you’re Manchester City. QPR could and probably should have had at least a goal for themselves, the Wigan defence opening up a bit too easily at times, allowing for some medium-range shots that may, on another day, have found the net. Some incisive attacking, however, shows great promise for our contest with the aforementioned Manchester City this time next week. A draw at the City of Manchester Stadium would represent an excellent performance and extend Wigan’s unbeaten run to eight games – Wigan’s best run of Premier League results under Martinez by some margin. Yes, Latics’ last league loss was at the Stadium of Light on 23 April. Let’s hope it’s a long time before we see another.