Premier League - Wigan boost survival hopes
Wigan Athletic secured three vital points in their bid to avoid relegation from the Premier League with an impressive 2-0 home victory over lacklustre Stoke City.
Antolin Alcaraz and Victor Moses both scored in the second half for Wigan, who along with Blackburn and QPR now have 28 points, one point behind 16th-placed Bolton.
Roberto Martinez’s men started brightly, and with purpose, but the goal they deserved didn’t initially arrive as a result of some wayward finishing. Moses and Jean Beausejour, particularly important on both wings, ensured that Stoke’s Matthew Etherington and Jermaine Pennant remained ineffective and though the away side were largely unthreatening throughout, Wigan always looked vulnerable when not taking their chances.
The best of these came to Franco Di Santo and Beausejour, both of whom should have scored comfortably. Di Santo shot unconvincingly when through on goal in the early stages of the game and saw his effort saved by Asmir Begovic while Beausejour inexplicable failed to connect properly after a cross so good he needed only to send it goalwards to score.
With the score 0-0 at half-time, it was not unthinkable that Stoke would return with more urgency for the second half and make Wigan regret their impotence in front of goal.
The Potters, however, continued to play as if their season had already ended while Wigan remained hungry and committed. The opening goal came in the 55th minute as defender Alcaraz headed in Beausejour’s superb cross from the left wing and from that point on Wigan virtually looked in complete control.
Stoke were frustrated and possibly tired while the home side continued to win the majority of the challenges and dominate possession of the ball.
Regardless, given the nature of Stoke’s long-ball game, a one-goal lead still did not look sufficient and the unthinkable almost happened to Wigan when they failed to clear a Ricardo Fuller cross, despite chances to do so, and Cameron Jerome fired the loose ball over the bar.
Beausejour wasted another great chance in similar fashion to his first, this time from a Ben Watson cross, as he again failed to connect with enough authority from an apparently simple chance.
But as Stoke’s frustrations grew and Wigan continued to control the game, the winner came in stoppage time as Moses, out of nowhere, burst through on goal, past the chasing Andy Wilkinson, and scored with a simple yet unconvincing shot past Begovic.
It was a result Wigan deserved and maintains the momentum they have built in recent weeks, meaning survival looks more likely now than it has at any other stage of the season.
Stoke, in contrast, looked insufficiently motivated and in genuine danger of having a disappointing end to the season, though that should not detract from a good, confident Wigan performance.