WIGAN ATHLETIC 3
Gomez 58, 68, 90+2
Al Habsi 80 o.g.
It was a thriller in every sense of the word, full of excitement, suspense and topped off by the sensational.
Also a fitting tribute on the 76th birthday of Chairman Dave Whelan but falling behind to a Sean Morrison header wasn’t part of the plan.
That was excused though come the 92nd minute of the match, when Jordi Gomez completed a perfect hat-trick to seal a memorable 3-2 victory (celebration pictured).
There were thrills and spills along the way, with Latics almost dropped points when a moment of misfortune for Ali Al Habsi saw him drop the ball into his own net bringing Reading level with 10 minutes to play.
It was the polar opposite from Latics’ previous meeting with the Royals, which ended in a goalless draw back in April 2008 and Gomez was the star of the show.
From kick off it was a Barclays Premier League game that looked there for the taking for Roberto Martinez’s side as they created chance after chance in the opening half an hour.
Arouna Kone was guilty of missing a close range, unchallenged header early on, with eventual hero Gomez also sending a clear cut chance wide of the mark as he curled a right footed effort in the area off target.
To the surprise of everyone it was Brian McDermott’s Reading that took the lead when a Nicky Shorey free kick from the left wing was thumped in off the head of Morrison for his first goal at the club.
Shorey was the only remaining Reading player from the last games against Reading in 2008, with Emmerson Boyce present for Latics on that day.
Latics looked shaken but a 15 minute break at half time would prove the right respite and it was soon Gomez’s time to shine.
Just 13 minutes into the second half and Latics’ pacey front line finally broke through with half time substitute Franco Di Santo escaping down the left and playing in a low cross for Gomez, Adam Federici initially saved at close quarters but his parry fell straight back to Gomez (pictured celebrating) who lifted the ball high into the top corner with his right foot.
Part one complete, Gomez grabbed his second goal 10 minutes later with an uncharacteristic diving header.
Latics broke away from the middle and attacked down the left once more, this time it was Jean Beausejour and an earlier cross as he floated the ball into the danger zone perfectly for Gomez to launch himself at and lift Latics into a 2-1 lead.
Assertiveness on the flow of the game seemed to have been restored but with 10 minutes to play a 14th victory in the 37th fixture against Reading was in jeopardy, when a speculative swipe at the ball by Hal Robson-Kanu deflected into the air and resulted in an own goal by Ali Al Habsi as he tipped the high ball onto the underside off the crossbar and back into the net.
Clearly distraught from conceding, Al Habsi’s celebration (pictured above right) at the 92nd minute winner was one of complete elation and passion.
Gomez’s perfect hat-trick brought about the emotions as Latics broke once more.
The Spaniard started the move from the centre circle as he realised Kone down the left wing, the Ivorian advanced into the area, checking back and placing the ball inside for Gomez who had made a forward run half the length of the pitch.
With one swift swipe of his left boot Gomez had the DW Stadium rocking as a crucial three points was sealed and the first hat-trick since Marcus Bent against Blackburn Rovers in 2007 was completed.
Latics: Al Habsi, Kone, McCarhty, Jones (McArthur 83), Maloney (Di Santo 45), Gomez, Boyce, Ramis (Lopez 49), Beausejour, Stam, Figueroa
Reading: Federici, Gunter, Shorey, Leigertwood, Le Fondre, McAnuff, Morrison, Tabb (McCleary 73), Gorkss, Robson-Kanu, Roberts (Pogrebnyak 84)
“I was very proud of him because he never hid away from his responsibilities on the pitch, played with real style and I hope after the game that everyone can understand that it would have been all too easy for him to shy away and not face up to the challenge.
“He’s given us an incredible hat-trick and we need to help him more on the pitch, no-one has a stronger mental attitude than him and I thought he served as a great example to our youngsters as to how a player should react to adversity on a football pitch.”
“When we played here (the DW Stadium) against West Brom we played well but they scored when we were doing that and it happened again against Reading.
“This time though we made sure that we wouldn’t let it get us down and we fought to the very last minute to make sure that we won.”
“The three goals he scored were magnificent and he won us the three points.
“Hopefully now nobody will be on Jordi’s back because when you see the winning goal he scores he shows incredible passion to win the ball on the halfway line in a 50-50 tackle and then runs half the length of the pitch to score from Arouna's pass.
“You could see what scoring the goals meant to him because there was real passion in every celebration.”
You can also find reactions from Dave Whelan by [clicking here]
and Maynor Figueroa by [clicking here]
and watch the highlights from the game by [clicking here]