WIGAN ATHLETIC 1
A Shaun Maloney corner and a goal from Ben Watson in the penalty area, it all sounds remarkably familiar but it’s not the FA Cup final we’re talking about, instead we’re focussing on Watson’s back post finish against Tottenham Hotspur and how Latics fought for their third victory of the season.
Roberto Martinez’s men were looking for their first back-to-back wins of the season and faced a stern test against a Spurs side that had scored in each of their last 29 home games.
It was a statistic that Latics eventually ended but they were made to work hard, while showing just how effective and entertaining the style of the team could be.
Spurs started the game with possessional dominance but with Latics soaking up pressure at the back and having Ali Al Habsi save low from Jan Vertonghen, they began to push their way into the encounter with style.
Shaun Maloney and Arouna Kone looked the threats early on and when they combined on the edge of the area with the Ivorian forward breaking through the back line, only Brad Friedel could stand in the way as the veteran United States ‘keeper made a smart stop from Kone’s close range effort.
Move on just a couple of minutes and the same pair were at it again, this time Kone turn provider as Maloney beat the offside trap but Friedel was present for a second time as he saved the Scotsman’s low effort with his legs.
Latics looked good value for a goal and eventual scorer Watson came close just before half time when a delicate ball down the right wing by Gary Caldwell was cut inside to the midfielder by Kone, only for Latics’ number eight to side foot his effort over the cross bar.
Tottenham had their moments of pressure but the giant figures of Caldwell and Ivan Ramis stood firm all afternoon and would be rewarded with their second clean sheet of the season come full time.
There was just the matter of scoring a goal to be sorted and 11 minutes after the half time restart, Watson, who had been brought into the starting XI to replace the injured James McArthur, was the man to provide Latics with their second 1-0 victory over Tottenham in the space of three seasons.
Maloney’s curled in a corner from the left and pressure from Kone on Friedel was just enough to force the goalkeeper to parry the ball right into the path of Watson who side footed his volley across the line.
Friedel attempted to scoop the ball away but the linesman and referee were under complete and correct agreement that the ball had crossed.
With a large portion of the game left Latics had to work hard for the win as they limited Spurs’ attack and kept Player of the Year to be Gareth Bale at bay.
After five minutes of added time, Martin Atkinson finally blew his whistle and a crucial three points lifted Latics into 12th place in the Barclays Premier League, while for Tottenham it signified their first back-to-back home defeats since September 2008.
A second trip to London of the season was sealed with a second win and Latics could set their sights on a home game against West Bromwich Albion the following week.
Friedel, Dempsey, Vertonghen, Huddlestone, Lennon, Bale, Gallas, Defoe (Adebayor 57), Walker (Carroll 79), Sandro (Sigurdsson 23), Caulker
Al Habsi, Kone, McCarthy, Caldwell, Watson, Di Santo (Gomez 79), Maloney, Boyce, Ramis, Beausejour, Figueroa
REACTIONBen Watson on scoring against childhood rivals:
“Scoring any goal in the Premier League is an amazing feeling, but as a boyhood Arsenal fan to score against Tottenham at their ground with what proved to be the winning goal is very special.”
Shaun Maloney on Watson impact:
“He’s been excellent in training lately and deserved his chance when it came along.
“Ben got his chance after James (McArthur) got injured and thankfully he took that to his and our advantage.”
More on Watson from James McCarthy:
“Ben was brilliant stepping in for James (McArthur), he was spreading the ball around really well and keeping the tempo of the game at the level which we need for us to win.”
Our next ‘Games of the Season’ feature will be available on the website on June 13 as we focus on the 3-2 home win against Reading.
You can view the first in the series by [clicking here] to see our break down of the 2-0 victory over Southampton.