Wigan’s battle to maintain their Premier League status is now looking likely to end in failure after a desperately poor second half performance gifted Swansea City all three points at the DW Stadium. Latics had led 1-0 at half time through a Roger Espinoza strike, but early in the second half Swansea equalised through Angel Rangel and although James McCarthy restored Wigan’s advantage, further goals by Itay Shechter and Dwight Tiendalli meant the points went to South Wales.
Wigan needed a win to lift themselves out of the bottom three but with two games remaining the chances of survival are now looking very slim. Even if they can win their games away at Arsenal and at home to Aston Villa, other results may take matters out of their hands.
Roberto Martinez made several changes to his starting line-up following Saturday’s win at West Bromwich Albion with Roger Espinoza replacing the injured Jean Beausejour and Gary Caldwell and James McArthur replacing Ronnie Stam and Jordi Gomez.
Despite the re-shuffle Wigan were the more dominant outfit in the opening 45 minutes with Arouna Kone having a shot well saved by Michel Vorm in the Swansea goal.
But against the run of play Swansea had the best opportunity of the half when a back pass by Gary Caldwell was penalised by referee Kevin Friend. Despite being only eight yards from goal and with keeper Joel Robles and all Wigan’s outfield players on the goal line Swansea’s Ashley Williams contrived to blast the ball high over the cross-bar, much to the relief of the home fans.
Just when it was looking like the teams would go into the interval level, Wigan took the lead through Roger Espinoza’s first ever goal in England. The Honduran picked up Michel Vorm’s punch on the edge of the penalty area and smashed a left-footed volley past the Swans keeper.
The home crowd were buzzing at half time and confidence was high as it looked like Wigan would move out of the drop zone. However the home side started the second period slowly and Swansea started to probe the Wigan defence.
Wigan were penned back in their own penalty area and when Wayne Routledge’s diagonal ball evaded all the Wigan defenders, Angel Rangel expertly volleyed past Joel Robles and in off the post.
Wigan responded quickly and were back in front within three minutes. Gary Caldwell advanced towards the Swans goal before playing an excellent diagonal pass to James McCarthy and the young Irishman fired his shot low past Vorm. Wigan had another glorious opportunity moments later when Kone crossed for James McArthur, but the Scottish midfielder failed to make full contact and the chance went begging.
Just when it was looking like Wigan would go onto consolidate their lead, a sloppy piece of defending brought the Swans back level. Caldwell gave the ball away in his own half and with the defence out of position Boyce’s desperate attempt to challenge Itay Shechter, only succeeded in deflecting the striker’s shot past Robles.
Wigan sought to regain their lead but Vorm produced an outstanding reaction save to deny Caldwell. Swansea were looking the fitter of the two sides and were committing players forward in numbers, but it was Wigan who once again contributed to their own downfall.
The winning goal was a disaster from a Wigan point of view. The home side’s defenders all seemed out of position and it was left to McArthur and Maloney to clear the danger, but neither was able to deal with Pablo Hernández’s cross and Dwight Tiendalli turned the ball over the line.
With about 10 minutes remaining the Swans keeper Michel Vorm was badly injured in a goalmouth collision and had to be stretchered from the field and soon afterwards Wigan substitute Ronnie Stam, who had only been on the field for a matter of seconds, was involved in a blocked tackle which resulted in a suspected broken leg.
Wigan pressured the Swansea goal, with Caldwell, Kone and Maloney all going close. But it was all in vain and their elementary defensive mistakes had been their downfall.
There are no excuses for such sloppy defending, but it is fair to point out that Wigan were missing Ivan Ramis, Antolin Alcaraz and Maynor Figueroa, and if these players had been available their plight would not now be so desperate.
Wigan’s playing squad is now looking decidedly thin on the ground and with the FA Cup Final and the two final league games of the season imminent, it is clear that the football gods are not smiling on the club.