Date: 13th September 2008 at 6:33pm
Written by: Baskerville

A late opportunist shot by Amr Zaki, earned Latics a deserved point against a committed physical Sunderland side, who only forced Chris Kirkland into one save all afternoon.

Most of the conversations in Wigan during the week have centred on the stadium decision to deny our rugby friends the use of the pitch last night.

Whilst the alleged protest by our peanut hugging friends failed to materialise, the first half display could have seemed to have been cursed, as Wigan seemed unable to string two passes together, with the notable exceptions of Valencia, Melchiot and my man of the match Cattermole.

Steve Bruce, unsurprisingly opted to retain the same starting line up that defeated Hull five nil two weeks ago, with the returning Scharner having to be content with a place on the bench.

Sunderland looked quick and were very physical, El Hadj Diouf in particular covered every blade of grass with a none stop running performance. The goal, when it came had an element of controvesy . Diouf, jumped with Melchiot for a ball, appearing to elbow Melchiot in the head , however, Mr Styles in one of his many questionable decisions of the afternoon, waved play on. Boyce who was covering hesitated before chasing back and conceding a corner.

Malbranque took the corner, which was cleared back to him and when he re-crossed the ball a superb header by Bramble left Kirkland with no chance. Poor Titus, he had to go for the ball and tried to glance the ball but met it full on and Wigan were one down.

This was the catalyst for Sunderland to sit back and defend, Latics huffed and puffed with Zaki undergoing a torrid time with Mc Cartney`s over physical challenges which went un punished by Mr Styles.

Latics created half chances but when the ball whizzed across the penalty area on several occasions, there was no one to put the ball goal ward. Latics` pressure also yielded several corners but the delivery from Kilbane still wearing his face mask was poor.

Half time brought no substitutions but whatever was said at the interval to the Wigan players evidently had an effect, as they tore into Sunderland in the second half.
Kilbane was replaced part way through the second half by the mercurial Koumas, whose skilful touches created more space in midfield and gave the front two a better quality of service. However it wasn`t until the 70th minute that Craig Gordon had a save to make, a brilliant powerful shot by Kapo who had replaced the visibly tiring Palacios, forcing the Scottish keeper to push the ball around the post for a corner. As Wigan pushed forward looking for an equaliser, Sunderland broke and left Cisse one on one with Kirkland, who showed his England class by making a brilliant save.

The breakthrough came in the 77th minute, Figueroa who had come into his own going forward in the second half, crossed into the penalty area, the Sunderland defenders who had marshalled Zaki well all afternoon failed to clear and the Egyptian who is rapidly accruing legendary status, shot past the stranded Gordon.

It appeared at this moment as there was only one team likely to win the game but all this changed with yet another questionable decision by Mr Styles. Teemu Tainio went down heavily under a challenge from Cattermole who had previously been booked and whilst there appeared to be minimal contact, Mr Styles flourished the second yellow and Cattermole was off.

This would normally be the cue for a rearguard Latics action but in truth Sunderland seemed content to settle for the draw and Wigan were the closest to snatching a victory.

In the end considering the poor first half performance a draw was probably a fair result but the second half performance deserved better.

Player Ratings

Couldn`t be faulted for the goal and a brilliant save from Cisse.

A no nonsense performance, linked well with Valencia

A very good second half especially going forward

Not his best game

Another you tube clip methinks

Looked off the pace, needs to be replaced as the set piece taker

Looked tired, no surprise when he was substituted

His industry will be missed against Spurs

Latics most attacking outlet

Heskey …6/10
Good in the air but that`s it

Never stopped trying , had a stupendous battle with Mc Cartney and Ferdinand and deserved a goal

Drove Latics forward when he came on and stretched the Sunderland defence.

One brilliant shot
Not on the pitch long enough to have any effect

Manager Rating
Steve Bruce?8/10

Earned his money with his half time team talk.

Rob Styles?4/10
Earned the boos of the Sunderland fans when warming up before the game but his decisions left me and a lot of other Wigan fans baffled