Wigan Athletic made it a festive programme to forget for Paul Lambert with a crushing 3-0 victory against Aston Villa at Villa Park that made it three losses on the spin for the hosts.
Ivan Ramis headed the Latics into a third minute lead with a powerful header before the hosts rallied as the half drew to a close.
The game was over as a contest four minutes shy of the hour mark following quick-fire goals from Emmerson Boyce and Arouna Kone.
The result sees Wigan move out of the bottom three and leapfrog Villa in the table – with the Villans just one place above the relegation spots at the close of the year.
Much has been made of Villa’s festive capitulation but their plight looked rather more palatable when compared to that of Wigan’s – the Latics had taken one point from the last 18 available and only registered one win in their last nine Premier League encounters before the trip to Villa Park.
Lambert can point to a crippling injury list in mitigation to what has been a torrid festive period and he was again without six first-teamers, including the experienced Richard Dunne and Ron Vlaar, for this mid-season relegation six-pointer.
Wigan's season has also suffered at the hands of injury but Roberto Martinez welcomed back defender Ramis, who returned after suffering a hamstring injury at the end of last month. Kone was the focal point of an attacking formation with Shaun Maloney and Franco Di Santo supporting him either side.
Having conceded 12 in their last two games, Lambert will have been at pains to stress to his players the importance of keeping it tight against fellow relegation fodder but his plans were in tatters after only three minutes as the returning Ramis rose unopposed on the edge of the six-yard box to head past Brad Guzan.
Villa were ragged and, with the left side of their defence particularly porous, Jean Beausejour and Maloney were running amok down that channel, and, having been fed by the Chilean, former Villa man Maloney should have won a penalty when Stephen Ireland took his legs with less than ten minutes on the clock.
The Latics had the run of the midfield, but, with their passing not up to the required standard, Lambert’s men were lucky to escape without being further behind by the time the now customary minute’s applause for captain Stiliyan Petrov came with 19 minutes gone.
Visibly buoyed by the heightened noise inside the ground, Villa upped the intensity and, in doing so, moved the game 15 yards further away from the goal of Brad Guzan. Ireland became more prominent and the hosts were unlucky not to be at parity come the interval.
The best chance of the closing moments fell to Brett Holman but his effort from an incredibly tight angle hit the crossbar following a Christian Benteke knock-down with Ali Al-Habsi beaten.
The hosts began the second-half in the ascendancy but the game was over as a contest when Emmerson Boyce sauntered forward with ease, exchanged passes with Kone before thrashing the ball past Guzan from just inside the box.
There was little time for the hosts to regroup as Kone furthered the task ahead of Lambert’s men when he was fed by Di Santo, evaded a pretty abject challenge from Matthew Lowton before rounding the beleaguered American to make it a three goal advantage four minutes shy of the hour.
With the ground emptying at an alarming rate, Lambert reacted by withdrawing Holman, Eric Lichaj and Ireland for Karim El Ahmadi, Jordan Bowery and Marc Albrighton.
While the hosts reacted with an increase in intensity, it was Wigan who could have furthered their lead but Kone elected to round the advancing Guzan when he may better have been served lifting the ball over the American.
In truth, Wigan were not that much more superior than their hosts but were clinical when offered a sight of goal; Villa were laboured in their attempts to carve out meaningful opportunities as a second-half exodus of home fans illustrated their discontent.
Credit to Villa, they finished having the better of the match in terms of possession, but, with Benteke cutting an isolated figure up front, they were unable to produce a consolation for those fans who had stayed.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Arouna Kone, Wigan – offered an outlet and a focal point of his side’s attack and will be sorely missed when he represents his country at the African Cup of Nations. Capped a fine performance with a well-taken goal.
Aston Villa: Guzan 5, Lowton 4, Clark 4, Bennett 4, Holman 5, Herd 6, Lichaj 6, Weimann 6, Bannan 6, Ireland 5, Benteke 5. Subs: El Ahmadi 5, Albrighton 5, Bowery 5.
Wigan Athletic: Al Habsi 6, Caldwell 6, Boyce 7, Ramis 6, Figueroa 5, Beausejour 5, Maloney 6, Jones 5, McCarthy 5, Di Santo 5, Kone 8. Subs: Gomez 6, McManaman 5, McArthur 5.
- Sports & Recreation
- Aston Villa
- Wigan Athletic
- Paul Lambert
- Arouna Kone
- Emmerson Boyce