Roberto Martinez says his team deserved more from their encounter with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, after a battling performance left them empty handed and on the back of a harsh 4-1 defeat.
The Spaniard felt that had Latics made their bright start to the first-half show in the scoreline, then things would have been very different, saying:
“As always goals are important in games, and during the first-half I felt we created enough opportunities to take the lead.
“That was probably the difference between the two sides; Chelsea were able to take advantage of a rare counter attack and take the lead in a moment that we left ourselves a little exposed.
“However, I thought we reacted well, looked strong and scored a goal after the break of the highest quality, from the movement of the players, to the ball from James McArthur and the composure of Shaun Maloney to finish with style from the angle.
“In that spell it always felt as though we would have the opportunities to get another goal and a positive result.
“The final scoreline shows the late goals scored by Chelsea as we left ourselves open pushing for an equaliser, which I can accept because the players are doing everything they can to find a goal.”
At 2-1 down Latics had a penalty claimed waved away by referee Mike Dean, after a Ronnie Stam shot seemed to be blocked by the arm of Ashley Cole inside the area. Martinez felt the decision could have gone one way or another:
“As a defender you’re always going to run the risk if you go to block the ball and your arm is not tight to your body.
“After that it goes down to the interpretation of the referee, but it did come at a pivotal point in the game; a penalty and the chance of an equaliser would have changed the dynamics of the game.
“Sometimes you get those decisions going your way, other times you don’t and perhaps today was one of those games when luck wasn’t on our side.”
Arouna Kone made his return to the team as a second-half substitute, following his participation in the Africa Cup of Nations, and Martinez explained why the striker wasn’t named in the starting line-up:
“We wanted to have Arouna available to finish the game today, because having lost a bit of wait at the Africa Cup of Nations he has to be given the chance to build his way back to full fitness.
“It wouldn’t have been possible to have him available for the full 90 minutes, but I’m delighted he is back at a pivotal point in the season.”
Overall, the Gaffer reflected on the positives to come from the game which will serve Latics well going into the final stages of the season:
“We never lost our true identity and confirmed the belief that we can take on any team in the Premier League home or away and compete.
“For long spells we made things very difficult for Chelsea, creating enough threat to earn a positive result.
“The group is getting stronger, players are coming back from injury and that competitive edge is increasing to make sure we go into the final third of the season looking as strong as possible.”