Wigan were controversially denied a point a the Liberty Stadium on Saturday when Arouna Kone’s header was ruled out for offside. Strikers Pablo Hernandez and Miguel Michu had given the Swans the lead in two second half minutes and Emmerson Boyce quickly pulled a goal back before the referee’s assistant disallowed Latics equaliser.
Wigan’s team of nations travelled to South Wales following the international break and it was soon evident that many of the Latics players were feeling the effects of their international duties and long journeys. Wigan had eight of the starting line up involved in World Cup qualifiers and Maynor Figueroa and Jean Beausejour only returned to England on Friday. In contrast Swansea had very few players on international duty and must have been refreshed by the hiatus in activity.
Wigan’s performance lacked the intensity that they displayed in their last fixture against Everton. They failed to impose their passing game on a Swansea team that was also lacking confidence after a run of five games without a win.
Swansea certainly had an advantage on the day as it was clear that many of the Latics players looked off the pace after their travels. Wigan had produced a similarly poor performance against Manchester United following the last international break.
Roberto Martinez has in the past criticised the international breaks and requested that the Premier League fixtures are put back a day to give the players more time to recover. This would seem a sensible request given the distances that many of the international players have to travel to play for their home nations.
The first half started slowly with both teams tentatively sizing up the opposition and Wigan in particular looking reluctant to get forward and create opportunities. Franco Di Santo was designated to track Swansea playmaker Leon Britton and the Argentinian striker looked particularly uncomfortable in the role. He gave the ball away on numerous occasions and he often looked unclear whether to track Britton or to take up space away from the Swansea defenders. This contributed to a relatively toothless Wigan attack with only Arouna Kone and occasionally Shaun Maloney getting into forward positions.
Swansea created the better chances in the first half with Jonathan De Guzman having a shot saved by Ali Al Habsi and then another fly wide of the goal and Michu should have scored when he headed Wayne Routledge’s cross over the cross-bar. Wigan couldn’t get into their stride and were lucky to go into the half time break level.
The second half started in similar fashion with Swansea dominating possession and creating opportunities at the Wigan end. It was looking only a matter of time before the Swans would take the lead and in the 65th minute they did with Hernandez’s crisp shot on the turn following good work by Wayne Routledge.
Things got worse for Wigan two minutes later when from a corner Michu rose unchallenged at the near post and headed past Al Habsi. It was a poor goal to concede from a defensive point of view. However Wigan did get a goal back two minutes later when Emmerson Boyce spectacularly back flicked the ball into the top corner of the net.
Roberto Martinez did make some tactical changes which nearly swung the game in Wigan’s favour. Franco Di Santo was replaced by Jordi Gomez, Maynor Figueroa by Ben Watson and James McArthur by Mauro Boselli, and Wigan proceeded to dominate possession for the last twenty minutes.
Swansea were looking increasingly uncomfortable as Wigan controlled the ball and camped around the Swansea area. Latics looked to have equalised after Jean Beausejour’s driven cross was headed in by Kone, but the referee’s assistant flagged for offside. It was a marginal decision but the TV replays showed that Kone was level when the ball was crossed.
Swansea did have chances on the break as Wigan pushed for the equaliser but a combination of poor finishing and good work by Al Habsi prevented further goals.
Wigan had a fleeting opportunity to equalise in the dying minutes when Al Habsi went up for a corner and managed to get in a header from a corner but the Swansea keeper Michel Vorm saved the header.
The Swans held on for an important victory, much to the relief of their fans. Latics can only continue to rue the international breaks and hope to get back to winning ways at home to West Ham United next Saturday.