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Premier League

  • 22 May 2011
  • • 16:00
  • • Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire
  • Referee: A. Marriner
  • • Attendance: 27566

Stoke City 0-1 Wigan Athletic: Late Hugo Rodallega strike seals remarkable Premier League survival on final day

Stoke City 0-1 Wigan Athletic: Late Hugo Rodallega strike seals remarkable Premier League survival on final day

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Latics escape the drop once again with a late winner at the Britannia Stadium after a tense game as Tony Pulis's side sign off with third consecutive defeat

By Nick Price at the Britannia Stadium

Wigan Athletic ensured their Premier League survival with a gutsy win at Stoke City courtesy of a late Hugo Rodallega header.

The Colombian rose to meet Mohamed Diame's cross and nodded home with just over 10 minutes remaining of a game that the visitors, for the most part, struggled in before turning in a gritty second half display, though the hosts were guilty of missing a host of chances to score.

Tony Pulis made several changes from the side that lost to Manchester City in the league on Tuesday, with Jermaine Pennant, Matthew Etherington, Rory Delap, Kenwyne Jones and Jonathan Walters among the names returning to the line-up, while Roberto Martinez handed Connor Sammon – who struck the equalising goal in the comeback win against West Ham last week – a start ahead of Victor Moses.

Just as they did last week against the Hammers, Wigan started poorly and were fortunate when Antolin Alcarez's under-hit backpass was met by a spritely Ali Al-Habsi rather than Jones.

The visiting fans' early vociferous support soon quietened as their side were pegged back in their own half for long periods, with Walters prodding in on the line from a Jones flick on, but the Ireland international was a yard or more offside.

There was more chances to come from the hosts, however, with Delap's throws causing havoc, with Jones prodding onto a loose ball only to be denied by Emmerson Boyce on the line.

The nervousness continued for the visitors, with Alcarez soon going into the book for a rash challenge, and it remained the home fans making the noise, with a loud cheer going up when a looping effort from Jones forced Al-Habsi into a reflex save.

Wigan scarcely played like a side with survival at stake – with only Mohamed Diame and James McCarthy taking a shot in the first half hour, though both were far from being on target – and regularly squandered possession to Stoke, who nearly punished Maynor Figueroa's slackness on the ball as Pennant found space to shoot, but the winger's effort was comfortably collected by Al-Habsi.

That was the last shot on target in a flat first half which saw the relegation-threatened side dominated but not put to bed, with their fans causing a din as the players headed towards the tunnel to regather for the second period.

Neither boss made a change at the break, but Wigan showed much more intent in the first two minutes of the second half than they had in the first 45, though Rodallega was deemed offside at the far post after some neat work.

At the other end though, Wigan were still haphazard, allowing a looping ball to bounce over the midfield and to split the defence, though Figueroa was able to poke it away before Walters could strike on the turn, while Jones also spurned a chance to open the scoring with a free header that he nodded wide.

Charles N'Zogbia, matchwinner last week, finally burst into life on the hour mark, twisting Pennant inside-out before earning a corner that was well dealt with by Asmir Begovic, who was called into action moments later as Sammon lashed a strike in from the edge of the area, but it was too close to the Bosnian.

Martinez made his first change by bringing off Sammon for Tom Cleverley, who instantly caused problems as he twisted in the box and forced Begovic to use his legs to keep the game scoreless.

Stoke's goalkeeper was called into action once more as Diame powered forward before drilling a shot from outside the box that had the former Portsmouth man at full stretch to block.

But the breakthrough was to come for the visitors, and it was N'Zogbia at the heart of things as he raced down the left and clipped a weighted ball into the box where Rodallega powered home from close range in front of the away fans, with goalkeeper Al-Habsi celebrating wildly at the other end of the pitch.

The lead was nearly cut short, however, when Glenn Whelan fizzed in a free-kick from range that zipped off the top of the crossbar.

Stoke substitute Dean Whitehead also had a late penalty shout turned down, but it was the buoyant visitors who held firm throughout five minutes of injury time to guarantee another year in the top flight, with Rodallega the hero.

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