Any hopes the Luiz Suarez verdict wouldn’t overshadow this match were dashed when the Liverpool players took to the pitch for their pre-match warm-up wearing t-shirts with his face on the front and name on the back. Kenny Dalglish was sporting one also in a pre-match interview, so whatever your opinion of the situation, it was very clear what his teammates thought.
It was also pretty clear what the respective fans thought with Liverpool fans chanting his name for the first 10 minutes and the Wigan fans booing his every touch. Among all that there was also the small matter of a football match to play.
At first glance it would have seemed that the visitors would be nailed on for all three points. After all, Dalglish’s team has one of the best away records in the league having five of eight on the road.
Wigan, on the other hand, looked almost certain for the drop after enduring an eight-game losing run but since that ended they’ve taken eight points from their last five, including a draw with Chelsea and they repeated the trick against Liverpool.
The visitors dominated early possession but they were unable to convert it into goals, something which would ultimately cost them. It was a keen tactical battle with Wigan getting numbers behind the ball and leaving Connor Sammon upfront on his own. Yet seemed a matter of when not if the visitors would break the deadlock.
But Ali Al-Habsi in the Wigan goal was in imperious form and proved impossible to beat. Eventually the home side came into their own, demonstrated by the fact they had 19 shots to Liverpool’s 21.
The key moment came five minutes into the second-half when a Suarez overhead shot hit Gary Caldwell on the arm leading to a penalty. But that man Al-Habsi was on hand to save what was a poor spot kick from Charlie Adam.
That’s four out of five spot-kicks Liverpool have missed this season and in a sense that represents the problems they are suffering from this campaign – despite creating numerous chances, they lack a cutting edge.
That has to be a worry for Dalglish given the resources at his disposal in that department. Suarez has that eight-game ban hanging over him, Dirk Kuyt can’t buy a goal at the moment, Craig Bellamy has to be used sparingly and Andy Carroll started on the bench again (he now has only one start in seven) and saw only four minutes’ action.
Roberto Martinez will sit down for his Christmas dinner with his side in the bottom three, but of the managers in that predicament, he will surely be the happiest. Despite their lack of goals, Wigan are playing good football and if, like Liverpool, they can find a cutting edge, the future looks bright for them.
Wigan (3-4-3): Al-Habsi; Caldwell, Alcaraz, Figueroa; Stam, McCarthy, Diam