An 86th minute Wigan equalizer denies Steve Bruce's men a hard-fought victory.
Wigan started the brighter of the two teams with a number of shots in the first quarter of an hour.
In a uneventful opening 20 minutes, Lee Cattermole unthinkingly continued his terrible disciplinary record this season by picking up his second red card of the campaign. After going in the book for a foul on Mohamed Diame he was let off by Andre Marriner for another risky foul, he went to ground in a tackle with Hugo Rodallega and tripped the young striker.
Marriner had no option but to show a second yellow and the Sunderland captain was off for an early bath, 22 minutes into the game. It was the fifth red card of his career with 44 yellow cards. As he left the field, Steve Bruce was stony faced and Sunderland were faced with playing the remaining three quarters of the game with 10 men.
Bruce, who was hoping to build on Sunderland’s impressive win against Manchester City two weeks ago, was forced to re-jig, sacrificing Ahmed Elmohamady for the defensive midfielder Cristian Riveros.
The first half was defined by fouls as Wigan picked up two bookings after Cattermole’s dismissal to go with a yellow card for Emerson Boyce just before the red. Danny Welbeck went into the book for Sunderland. When the half-time whistle blew there had been no shots on target, eight off target with 17 fouls conceded by the two teams.
Despite their man advantage, Wigan failed to create any clear-cut chances, and Sunderland still looked dangerous on the counter-attack. The main talking point was Cattermole’s ill-judged tackles. In a rush of messages from Black Cats’ fans, the overwhelming opinion is for Bruce to strip him of the captaincy.
At the beginning of the second half Sunderland brought on their £13million record signing Asamoah Gyan in a hope of nicking a goal on the break.
Wigan started the second period with more urgency with Rodallega having two shots in the space of two minutes. Roberto Martinez was keen to press home his team’s numerical advantage by bringing on winger Charles N’Zogbia and on-loan Chelsea striker Franco Di Santo for defender Ronnie Stam and defensive midfielder Hendry Thomas respectively.
For all of Wigan’s attacking intent, there was always a chance they would be hit on the break and so it proved. Jordan Henderson got free from his marker on the right and streaked down the wing before sending in a precise cross for Asamoah Gyan to volley home from close range to score on his Sunderland debut. Steve Bruce gambled on Wigan’s atrocious home form by sticking with two strikers despite Cattermole’s red card, and it paid off.
After both teams seemed to be canceling each other out in midfield, Wigan had a gilt-edged chance to equalize when substitute Di Santo crossed from six yards on the left but Mauro Boselli put a header wide with the goal completely at his mercy.
When late efforts by Wigan had been rebuffed by Sunderland’s dogged defending, it appeared that Latics were going to continue their dismal home record this campaign, they managed to grab a scrappy equalizer.
On 86 minutes, Sunderland keeper Simon Mignolet could only punch Hugo Rodallega’s free-kick to Di Santo on the edge of the box. The young striker hit a shot that was going wide before summer signing Antolin Alcaraz scored a deflected reaction goal, the ball eventually going in off his head.
1-1 was probably a fair reflection of the game, although Steve Bruce will be ruing Cattermole’s first half indiscretion. For Wigan, they have finally opened their home scoring account and Martinez will be breathing a sigh of relief after his team almost failed to capitalize on their extra man.
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