Wigan Athletic further hindered Liverpool’s progress winning 1-0 on Monday night as both sides looked to raise their Premier League profile and ascend the table. In the wake of Roberto Martinez offering words of comfort to Spanish counterpart Rafael Benitez, both teams looked up for the dogfight to give their fans something to smile about.
Although underdogs by a reasonable margin, Wigan took the lead after the half hour mark when Hugo Rodallega netted to pile the pressure on Liverpool. The Reds, who had started with vitality, seemed to have been winded – their pace slowed and frustration quickened as the rest of the match saw poor passing and missed chances become the norm for the Benitez’s XI.
Red groans could already be heard before kick off as the team selection was announced and Lucas Leiva’s name marked the team sheet. Benitez’s selections showcased poor choices as Dirk Kuyt was nothing but isolated out on the right in a very uneven midfield. Steven Gerrard’s failing captain’s performance was lined only with frustration, a late booking summing up an evening for him and his team as he became Liverpool’s fifth player to be yellow carded. Had the referee seen Gerrard’s questionable gesture and Torres’ patronising slap to the back of a Wigan head, the punishment may have been severe for Liverpool, not only for last night’s tie but the remainder of the season.
Liverpool fans were lifted with the news of Fernando Torres making his comeback from injury before the game. But with Torres missing chances while returning form injury and Gerrard’s current form which can only be described as wayward, how deep will Liverpool have to dig without their talismans? The Spaniard’s collection of crucial missed chances can be attributed to lack of sharpness being from a lengthy spell on the treatment table. But with Gerrard’s poor passing and first touches, Liverpool will have to frantically look elsewhere for inspiration if they are to leapfrog Manchester City and Tottenham for fourth place.
With the fixtures a mix of hope and despair, transfer target Marouane Chamakh looking set to join Arsenal and the grey financial clouds forever looming, Rafael Benitez will be looking to galvanise his squad and can only hope his words of promise can be backed by his players who can only look back on a desperate performance at the JJB.
For Wigan, the win keeps Roberto Martinez’s side comfortably above the drop zone. Fans and players of the JJB Stadium can take heart from the result – beating Liverpool, however trite the performance, is always a result to remember. Martinez will be hopeful to end the business end of the season well for the Latics and keep them in the Premier League for another season.
Whether Fernando Torres will have time to get back to full fitness and lead Liverpool to a charge for Champions League qualification remains to be seen. The loss to Wigan could once again prove to be another nail in Rafael Benitez’s ‘guarantee’ coffin as his promise to finish fourth looks evermore to diminish. As their upcoming fixtures include Manchester United away and another battle with Chelsea, the prospects of seeing colossal Champions League matches at a noisy Anfield next season are becoming less likely.