A chance, that was what we had this weekend. The games sat right with us, Southampton being pegged back and Reading losing. Aston Villa facing the champions on Monday, a win could really see us storm into revival. But that has all been wasted.
No changes from the game against Reading, as Roberto striving for consistency picked the same team and same formation. A now back four, the more attacking option in our tactical arsenal and was by the end of the game our downfall. But before then, we would have 90 seconds of pure brilliance.
The attacking formation and a packed home stand possibly spurred the team on for their early stint. Our first attack of the game, and we nearly scored. Quick, flowing football as Latics looked to get on the front foot. The ball in from the right handside picked out the free Arouna Kone, the striker tried to curl his body round the ball, but was unable to get any real conviction on the strike. Positive signs or so we thought.
It wasn’t long before Ali was picking the ball out of his own goal. Philippe Coutinho the man of the moment as his dizzy weaving run left the Wigan defence open. The Brazilian getting past Emmerson Boyce with ease before whipping a cross in for the awaiting Stewart Downing to head the ball home. That just wasn’t good enough and it’s what we got for the rest of the game, especially the first half.
The Wigan fans were at the mercy of a free running Liverpool side with bags of confidence. Luis Suarez and Coutinho the tormenters for the Wigan defence. Gary Caldwell will be having nightmares about the game for weeks. The usually reliable Scottish defender was rash and inconsistent, as his lack of pace and surprising lack of judgement let Liverpool into the game.
Luis Suarez then turned up the heat and grabbed the first of his three goals. The striker slaloming down the Wigan right handside broke free on goal, before placing the ball past the stranded Ali Al Habsi. The goalkeeper would be sick of the striker before long and most likely his teammates as none of them had an answer for the Liverpool attacks. Going forward Wigan were creating some chances. Three times in the first half Pepe Renia had to be at his best to deny Wigan players. A great clawing save to stop Franco Di Santo pulling a goal back at 2-0. The striker’s header from point blank range was heading to the top corner, but for the Spaniards hand. That was after he had dived excellently to the top corner to push away a strike from Shaun Maloney.
It appeared either way we couldn’t do anything and most of our players started to look disheartened and frustrated. One man in particular who was frustrated was Gary Caldwell, and another rash challenge from the defender drew a freekick about 30 yards out. Who would step up to take it, but Suarez and the striker delivered with a curling effort. You could argue that Al Habsi would have gotten to the ball had it not been for the flick of the head of Shaun Maloney to send the ball far into the corner.
Frustration was the flowing through this Wigan side, and a bust up between two of our own players is the last thing you want to see. James McArthur squaring up to the ever reliable Emmerson Boyce, neither could have said they were having a good game and their frustration aimed at each other was evident.
Going in 3-0 at half time is never a good thing. But in this circumstance it could have been worse. Dire is for a team which actually look like they have played together. Wigan looked like a team which may have at one point seen each other on the training pitch. Not a Premier League side who should be fighting for their lives.
The second half came and passed Wigan by. Luis Suarez added his third early on in the half. Yet again the striker managed to wriggle his way past the slow and disheartened Gary Caldwell, before slotting the ball home again. The Uruguayan had been the big difference between the two sides. That is not to say our striker force didn’t try. On a better day Kone really could have caused trouble, when the ball did get forward Kone had Jamie Carragher in his back pocket.
That was clear with the number of times the striker was able to turn the defender and get clear, only to find he was alone with another three red shirts descending on him; a bad day at the office for our goal scoring machine. Even Shaun Maloney wasn’t able to pull a goal back as the midfielder found space in front of goal; yet again Renia was equal to the Scotland internationals effort on goal.
A bad day the office? That would be an understatement. Wigan have to change their ways otherwise we won’t be in the Premier League next season.