REPORT: SWANSEA 2 LATICS 1
In the space of four second half minutes this chess-like match of football was settled when Swansea took a 2-0 lead through Pablo Hernandez and Spanish striker Michu and were immediately brought back to 2-1 through Emmerson Boyce’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic style finish.
Latics pushed hard late on and even Ali Al Habsi had a go at equalising when he got his head onto a Jean Beausejour corner.
Roberto Martinez chose the same team that drew 2-2 at home to Everton before the international break despite members of the squad only returning to training on Thursday.
The first half went by with rare incident as Latics were made to defend against Swansea’s heavy possession.
There were half chances for both sides throughout the opening 45 minutes with the first falling to eventual goal scorer Michu who volleyed over the bar as he gambled on a Wayne Routledge cross.
The Spaniard then had another chance 15 minutes later when he headed over the bar, this one a less comfortable chance.
The best chance for Latics in the first half fell to Jean Beausejour when Shaun Maloney threaded him in on goal down the left but, the Chilean’s drive from an angle was sent over the cross bar.
After half time Latics had to defend bravely again as Swansea continued to try and pick their way through an organised defence.
Latics had done well but, on 65 minutes they let their concentration slip when Routledge beat Ivan Ramis down the left flank by clipping the ball over his own and Ramis’ head to advance down the wing.
His cut-back was well placed inside to Hernandez who wasn’t pressed and slid a low right footed shot into Al Habsi’s right hand corner as Swansea went 1-0 up.
After the restart Swansea were hot on Latics’ heels again and within two minutes Michu had doubled the scores.
It was a front post corner that caught out the defence and Swansea’s top scorer rose before Ramis to flick the ball past Al Habsi who was blind-sided by the crowded penalty box.
Swansea must have thought they were flying but within the blink of an eye Latics had pulled themselves back into the game with a bizarre but marvellous finish.
Franco di Santo burst into life as he carried the ball down the left with Beausejour in tow.
The Chilean received the ball in a perfect crossing position and his ball towards the back of the box looked to have averted everyone but, up popped Arouna Kone at the back post to nod the ball down to James McCarthy.
His shot was a scuffed one but clipped up into the air and towards goal tamely until, Emmerson Boyce hooked a long leg around the ball with his back to goal to loop the ball into the back corner of the goal.
At 2-1 and with the game hanging in the balance Latics pushed hard and it should have been 2-2 just three minutes after Boyce’s goal.
It was Beausejour again causing the problems as he marauded down the left side to curl in a precise cross to the back post.
Kone was again right on time but judged offside despite dispatching the ball well with his head into an open goal.
The margin was very narrow if none at all but Latics remained a goal behind.
As Latics pushed Swansea countered but without finishing the game off as a combination of last ditch challenges and Al Habsi saves kept Latics in the game.
It was then the Omani who nearly proved the hero as he came up for the last corner of the match.
He rose above the defence and planted his header but as the fans behind the goal gasped, Michel Vorm got low to hold onto the ball and gratefully hear the final whistle.
Swansea City: Vorm, Flores, Williams, Britton, Michu, Hernandez (Dyer 72), Routledge, De Guzman (Graham 83), Rangel, Sung-Yeung, Davies
Unused Subs: Tremmel, Monk, Tiendalli, Shechter, Moore
Wigan Athletic: Al Habsi, Boyce, Caldwell, Figueroa (Watson 70), Ramis, Beausejour, McCarthy, McArthur (Gomez 83), Maloney, Di Santo (Boselli 83), Kone
Unused Subs: Pollitt, Jones, McManaman, Miyaichi