Al Habsi saves from the spot as Latics earn valuable point
WIGAN ATHLETIC . . . . . . . . . . 0
LIVERPOOL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
Report by Nick Taylor
As Wigan Athletic continued the Christmas period of tough fixtures, they once again proved a match for one of the Barclays Premier League's elite teams.
This time it was Liverpool who travelled to the DW Stadium but, in much milder conditions than the freezing cold of Saturday's 1-1 draw with Chelsea.
Latics set up with the same starting line-up for the third game in a row and it paid dividends on a night that saw Ali Al Habsi save a Charlie Adam penalty and his defence managed to keep out any Liverpool threat.
It was the Reds who started the game the brightest as they penned Latics back into their own half with a flurry of early chances being thwarted by Al Habsi's impressive shot-stopping.
He was called upon after just eight minutes when midfielder Jordan Henderson found himself in acres of space inside the Latics box only for the Omani keeper to swat the ball out for a corner.
Just a minute later Al Habsi was on hand for the home side again as he managed to hold on to a Martin Skrtel drive from range.
It was then the turn of the Latics front men to hammer the Liverpool defence and it was almost 1-0 when Conor Sammon and Jordi Gomez found themselves scrambling in the box. Gomez hit the final shot which got lodged underneath Pepe Reina's body, only for the referee to blow for a free kick for an earlier foul.
It was clear early on that both sides were going for the victory and Latics could have taken it had referee Michael Oliver given a penalty for a trip by Skrtel on Victor Moses.
Latics could smell blood and soon after Gomez, Maynor Figueroa and Mohamed Diame all struck rasping shots from far out, stinging the gloves of Reina in the Liverpool goal.
As the half continued there were more and more chances for both teams and if not for some goalkeeping heroics at both ends there could have been a sack full of goals.
After half time the heroics of Al Habsi were on display again, first from a Luis Suarez free kick that was tipped over the cross bar and then from the spot as a Gary Caldwell handball gave Charlie Adam the chance to open the scoring from 12 yards.
The fans' favourite stuck out a huge hand as he dived the right way, low to his left and palmed the ball out for a corner.
A sense of excitement came in a wave over the DW and the Latics' players looked inspired from the save, attacking in numbers and testing Reina once more.
The game continued at an exhilarating pace and it was no wonder that Latics are now unbeaten in three games after their defensive performance in the second half.
No matter what the Reds threw at them, Caldwell and Antolin Alcaraz seemed to sweep up well and if the ball got past them, there was only going to be one winner as Al Habsi continued to be world class.
On 85 minutes it looked as though Latics were going to clinch all three points when Moses found himself tying Jose Enrique it knots and his cross met the head of substitute Hugo Rodallega. His goal ward header deflected agonisingly for a corner kick.
Latics nearly had the lead again when a cross field ball by Rodallega was challenged for by Franco di Santo and none other than Liverpool's keeper Reina who came racing out of his box to calm the danger.
Liverpool pushed for the winner as well with high balls into the box towards second half substitute Andy Carroll but, a combination of goalkeeper and defence helped to earn Latics a vital point.
The draw now sees Roberto Martinez's men go onto 14 points just a single point behind 17th place Wolverhampton Wanderers.
It also sees Latics go two points clear of 19th place Bolton Wanderers and four points above bottom of the table Blackburn Rovers.
Latics: Al Habsi, Stam, Figueroa, Alcaraz, Caldwell, Jones (Watson 73), Diame, McCarthy, Gomez (Rodallega 73), Moses, Sammon (Di Santo 61)
Subs: Pollitt, Lopez, Crusat, McArthur
Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Enrique, Skrtel, Agger, Adam, Henderson, Downing, Maxi (Bellamy 71), Kuyt (Shelvey 71), Suarez (Carroll 87)
Subs: Doni, Kelly, Carragher, Coates