Premier League - Al Habsi denied as Wigan slump

Sun, 06 Nov 15:36:00 2011

Wigan Athletic suffered an eighth consecutive Premier League defeat despite a goalkeeping masterclass from Ali Al Habsi in a 3-1 loss to Wolves at Molineux.

Wolves 3 Wigan 1

Al Habsi was desperately unlucky to be on the losing side as he pulled off a number of brilliant saves, most notably to deny Jamie O'Hara, only to see his side remain rock bottom of the table following another defeat.

Though Wigan did equalise through Ben Watson following O'Hara's opener - the Latics midfielder scoring from the rebound after Wayne Hennessey saved his initial penalty - goals from Stephen Ward and David Edwards secured a first win in nine league games for the home side.

Wigan were guilty of wasting a glut of chances but the margin of their loss would have been greater were it not for a superhuman effort from a goalkeeper who does not deserve to be playing in a side with five points from 11 games.

Manager Roberto Martinez may also have to deal with fall out from the FA after defender Antolin Alcaraz appeared to spit at Wolves' Christophe Berra.

Both sides were suffering from chronically poor form heading into the contest and Mick McCarthy had admitted that Wolves needed to get the fans on side early in proceedings if they were not to suffer more abuse from the stands at Molineux.

Wolves certainly started quickly when Kevin Doyle nicked the ball away from Steve Gohouri and saw a firm effort turned behind by Al Habsi. Just minutes later, Stephen Hunt honourably stayed on his feet when Al Habsi's arm knocked him off course in the box, the result being that Wolves were unfortunately denied a clear penalty due to the midfielder's honesty.

Hunt was influential in the early stages as he sprinted with enthusiasm across the surface of the Molineux turf, and one cross from the Irishman found Edwards in the centre of the box. However, the Welshman was unable to force Al Habsi into a save with his header.

Wigan, bottom of the table and short of ideas, looked in danger of being overwhelmed but rallied thanks to some miserable defending from the home side. One sloppy pass almost resulted in Franco Di Santo getting a shot away, while another saw Mohamed Diame take possession and square for Hugo Rodallega, who produced a weak finish that Hennessey smothered.

Worse was to follow for the Colombian. After 31 minutes he was played in by a quite glorious angled pass from Di Santo but, after escaping the clutches of Christophe Berra and despite having the goal at his mercy, he poked the ball wide when it looked easier to score.

Wigan were punished for the glaring miss inside 35 seconds as Wolves charged up the other end of the pitch and took the lead when Doyle's cut-back was met by an emphatic close-range finish from O'Hara.

Martinez must have been apoplectic but any anger was assuaged on 42 minutes when the Wolves defence was exposed once again. Right-back Emmerson Boyce was the unlikely figure driving into the penalty box and, after Ward had touched him, Hunt finished the job with a stupid challenge to bring the Wigan defender to ground.

A penalty was rightly awarded and Watson was relieved to tuck home the rebound after Hennessey saved his initial attempt from 12 yards.

If Hennessey was unfortunate to concede having saved a penalty, then on 55 minutes Al Habsi suffered an even more outrageous slice of misfortune. Karl Henry drove into the box and cut back for Hunt, who was denied by a brilliant reaction stop from the keeper. O'Hara seemed perfectly placed to head in the rebound, only to see Al Habsi then throw out an arm and claw out the attempt to make a frankly unbelievable save.

It was reminiscent of David Seaman's famous stop against Sheffield United's Paul Peschisolido in an FA Cup semi-final in 2003 - a save that was said in one newspaper to "defy time and gravity". Cruelly though, Al Habsi could not withstand a third attempt in succession as Edwards turned the rebound home.

The Wigan keeper suffered a similar fate on 66 minutes. After Ward set Jarvis free with an outrageous spinning back heel, Edwards was denied by a block and then O'Hara forced Al Habsi into another good stop. However, Ward had sauntered into the box to drive a deflected effort home for 3-1.

Remarkably, Al Habsi was not done yet. On 70 minutes O'Hara played a deep free-kick into the box where Berra was lurking. The Scot's header appeared destined for the back of the net until Al Habsi extended his left arm and produced a wonderful reflex save. Berra could only look on in disbelief.

Hennessey was even reduced to applauding himself as he watched Al Habsi's masterclass, but the Wolves keeper had to be smart when Wigan substitute Conor Sammon twice went close in the closing stages. Hennessey then saved from Gohouri and saw Diame smack a shot into the side netting.

The final minutes were marred by a nasty incident as Wigan defender Alcaraz appeared to spit at Wolves counterpart Berra as both sets of players clashed. The incident is likely to merit closer investigation by the FA.

For Wigan, it is just another problem to ponder as they reflect on a disastrous run of form.

Tom Adams - @tomEurosport / Eurosport

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