Premier League - Rodallega downs dire Liverpool

Eurosport - Mon, 08 Mar 21:55:00 2010

Hugo Rodallega put a huge dent in Liverpool's hopes of securing a top-four finish as the Colombian gave Wigan a 1-0 victory in their Premier League clash at the DW Stadium.

FOOTBALL Premier League Wigan's Hugo Rodallege celebrates scoring against Liverpool at the Dave Whelan Stadium - 0

The Reds failed to move above Tottenham and Manchester City in the race for fourth spot as Rafael Benitez shot down the tunnel in disgust after an insipid performance from his side.

Roberto Martinez's side took the attack to the visitors with some enterprising play on the break through their three-pronged forward line of Charles N'Zogbia, Marcelo Moreno and Rodallega (pictured), and the Colombian opened the scoring in the 35th minute.

Dirk Kuyt gave the ball away sloppily before Mohamed Diame dinked over a delightful cross with the outside of his boot from out on the right, and Rodallega stole in to stab his shot beyond Pepe Reina from close range and inflict a ninth league defeat for the Reds.

Liverpool enjoyed a wealth of possession, but were unable to muster an equaliser as Wigan capitalised on their opponents' profligate use of possession at a sparsely-populated DW Stadium.

The travelling supporters watched on disconsolately as the visitors looked devoid of inspiration or creativity, and a wretched display was met with a chorus of boos at the full-time whistle.

Daniel Agger was confined to the bench after sustaining a knee injury along with the returning Glen Johnson as Sotirios Kyrgiakos was handed a starting berth in the centre of defence, while Javier Mascherano was forced to continue to assume an unfamiliar role at right-back.

Fernando Torres had the Reds' two solitary clear-cut chances, and the striker hit the post as early as the ninth minute with a fierce volley after Steven Gerrard whipped over a deep corner to pick out the Spaniard in space.

N'Zogbia and Rodallega were persistent threats on opposing flanks as Liverpool were made to look pedestrian and sluggish at the back, and Benitez's side gave the ball away with alarming regularity to gift the Latics possession.

James McCarthy was an inspired combative presence in midfield, and the young Irishman almost made it two as he hurtled into the Liverpool box at pace, only for Jamie Carragher to make a last-ditch challenge to alleviate the danger.

Liverpool had two opportunities to equalise against the run of play late in the first half, as Benayoun jinked down the right and picked out Gerrard, but the skipper's shot sliced wide tamely, before Torres headed over from close range as he met Maxi Rodriguez's pinpoint delivery.

Benitez must have dished out a fearful rollicking to his players at half-time, and the visitors set a frantic pace at the start of the second period with Yossi Benayoun at the forefront of everything.

Torres was again the culprit as the Spaniard blazed a wild shot over the bar from the edge of the Wigan box after Rodriguez cut the ball back from the right byline once more, and the striker's profligacy epitomised Liverpool's indifferent display.

Johnson was introduced for his first appearance since December in the 55th minute and, as Lucas was withdrawn, the change enabled Mascherano to be pushed into midfield, a move the Argentine celebrated with a crunching tackle on Diame.

Liverpool continued to struggle to muster clear-cut chances in the final third, as Rodallega and N'Zogbia lurked ominously on halfway to break forward at every opportunity when the visitors' patient possession finally abated.

N'Zogbia continued to cause havoc as he beat Reina to a loose ball on the counter-attack, but Paul Scharner could not turn home his deep cross at the back post as the midfielder slid agonisingly short of converting the ball.

Torres squandered yet another opportunity in the 75th minute as he hung his right foot out to volley Rodriguez's cross into the ground, but with Kirkland wrong-footed the ball drifted narrowly wide of the far post.

Gerrard and Torres cut incredibly isolated and frustrated figures for Liverpool as the pair were two of five players booked for the visitors, and Benitez was unable to conjure up a solution with Alberto Aquilani and Ryan Babel unable to make a late impact.

Liverpool have now failed to score in six of their last eight Premier League matches away from Anfield, including their last four matches on the bounce, as they remain a point off Tottenham and Manchester City in sixth place.

Dan Quarrell / Eurosport

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