Wigan manager Roberto Martinez made one change to the side that was beaten at Blackpool last weekend, with Cleverley coming into the side in place of the suspended Steve Gohouri. That meant Hugo Rodallega started up front with Charles N’Zogbia supporting him from the left wing.
Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson named an unchanged side from the one who beat Chelsea at Anfield on Sunday so the in-form Fernando Torres was again tasked with firing the Reds to victory.
Liverpool started the match in confident fashion and created their first chance in the second minute through their influential captain Steven Gerrard. The midfielder received a pass from Lucas inside the Wigan half before pushing on towards on goal and unleashing a swerving 25 yard drive which Ali Al Habsi tipped over the bar.
Five minutes later the visitors took the lead and it was the reborn Fernando Torres who got it. Gerrard played a beautiful through ball in for the Spaniard who took it in his stride before outpacing Gary Caldwell and firing into the bottom corner of the Wigan net to continue his goalscoring streak.
Wigan’s first moment of danger came in the 15th minute as Cleverley tricked his way past Martin Kelly on the left wing before delivering an in-swinging cross into the penalty area, but Reina was able to claim the ball before Rodallega could pounce.
Liverpool nearly doubled their lead a minute later after a fantastic bit of inter-play created a shooting opportunity for Gerrard. Torres broke away down the right wing before playing a low cross into Gerrard on the edge of the penalty area, the midfielder played a neat chip to Dirk Kuyt inside the area who headed the ball back to his captain but his left foot volley went over Al Habsi’s bar.
Wigan starting to press Liverpool and a great run by N’Zogbia through the box but he couldn’t find an opening for a shot or a pass to a teammate. And in the 30th minute Diame released the lively N’Zogbia down the left wing, he beat Kelly and fired a fizzing low cross into the six yard area but Liverpool were able to clear before a Wigan player could fire it home.
Wigan were now the stronger of the two sides and three minutes they had a goal ruled out by the linesman’s flag. A loose pass by Lucas was intercepted by N’Zogbia who ran at the Liverpool defense before rolling the ball into Rodallega, the Colombian played a ball back into his teammate who tapped the ball into the net but the linesman ruled it out for offside.
The hosts started the second half in confident mood and were almost gifted a goal in the fifth minute after a loose pass from substitute Jonjo Shelvey. The young midfielder wasn’t looking as he knocked a ball backwards and Rodallega latched onto the pass and ran at the Liverpool defense. The Colombian then looked to play in N’Zogbia but he got too much on the pass and the ball ran into the arms of Reina.
And in the 53rd minute Wigan got their equalizer through their danger man Rodallega following a mistake by Reina. A neat move was started by N’Zogbia as he released Stam on the right wing, the full back steadied himself before firing in a fast cross into the six yard area which Reina could only parry into the path of the Colombian who lashed the ball home from eight yards.
Two minutes later Rodallega nearly doubled his tally for the night as another Liverpool error gifted them a chance but this time they were denied by Reina. Mohamed Diame played a ball looking for the Colombian, Skrtel looked to intercept the pass but mistimed his challenge and the ball fell to Rodallega but the striker’s control wasn’t great which allowed Reina and Kelly to deny the striker a quick fire double.
Liverpool were clearly rattled by Wigan’s fast start to the second half and all the confidence they showed in the first half was slowly disappearing as the home side began to dominate the match. N’Zogbia was a constant threat all over the pitch and Rodallega never gave Skrtel and Carragher a moment’s peace. Had the home side’s final ball been better Rodallega could have had a hat-trick as Roberto Martinez’s side poured forward sensing victory.
With 11 minutes of the match to go Liverpool nearly grabbed goal against the run of play, Diame lost the ball in central midfield and Maxi delivered a pass into the path of Gerrard who was racing towards the penalty area. The Liverpool captain steadied himself but his right foot shot crashed against the bar and bounced clear much to the relief of Al Habsi.
Two minutes later Wigan came close again following excellent work by Cleverley down the left wing, the on-loan Manchester United midfielder beat Kelly before hanging a cross to the back post where Rodallega rose above his marker but could only head straight at Reina.
It was all Wigan as the match neared a conclusion and the man at the centre of everything was N’Zogbia, after some beautiful trickery on the left wing he delivered a fantastic low ball across the six yard box but there was no Wigan player there to apply the finishing touch. Ronnie Stam picked up on the loose ball and played Diame in but his shot was straight at Reina.
The final chance of the match came in the 87th minute and N’Zogbia was involved again, this time a corner from the Frenchman was easily cleared but when Stam returned the ball to him the winger cut inside Konchesky, but fired straight at Reina and Liverpool had held onto a point.
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