Phil Jagielka heads Everton to 2-1 Premier League victory over valiant Wigan
Last Updated: 26/12/12 6:45pm
Phil Jagielka: Rises above Gary Caldwell to net what proved to be the winner
Phil Jagielka's header proved crucial as Everton edged out valiant Wigan 2-1 at a rain-drenched Goodison Park.
David Moyes' men retained fourth place in the Premier League with victory - Leon Osman's deflected opener and Jagielka's excellent effort rendering Arouna Kone's late response mere consolation.
The hosts were wayward with several early attempts with Sylvain Distin the first to fail to find the target from Thomas Hitzlsperger's 11th-minute corner.
A clearer opening presented itself quickly when Leighton Baines scampered towards the by-line and cut back invitingly for Steven Pienaar - only for the South African's shot to deflect wide.
Best of the match
- Man of the match: Arouna Kone - Didn't deserve to be on the losing side. Always dangerous with his pace when Wigan went forward, while he also contributed well with the defensive side of his game.
- Moment of the match: The first goal was vital and it was a bit of luck for the hosts with Leon Osman's shot being deflected in.
- Attempt of the match: Thomas Hitzlsperger unleashed his famous 'Hammer' in the second half and it rattled off the bar from distance. It would have been some goal.
- Save of the match: There weren't many but Howard got down smartly to deny Ronnie Stam in the first half when it was still goalless.
- Talking point: The second-half challenge by Osman on Shaun Maloney in the box. There appeared to be some contact the ref Lee Mason wasn't having it. It was only 1-0 at the time.
- Goal of the game: Phil Jagielka's header to make it 2-0. It was fine cross from Phil Neville and an even better header from the towering defender.
Strikers Nikica Jelavic and Victor Anichebe wasted half-chances in the air while at the other end, Ronnie Stam eventually worked home goalkeeper Tim Howard with a tame long-range drive.
The second half was a far livelier affair and Everton displayed a renewed sense of urgency from the outset - epitomised by a fantastic effort from Hitzlsperger in the 47th minute.
The Germany international neatly nutmegged the advancing James McCarthy just inside Wigan territory and pushed the ball forward before unleashing an arrowing 30-yard drive that crashed off the top of the crossbar.
Five minutes later, Goodison finally erupted - albeit to celebrate a goal reliant on fortune - when Osman's effort deflected off the under-arm of Gary Caldwell to wrong-foot Ali Al-Habsi and open the scoring.
Wigan quickly set about their search for an equaliser and were adamant they had earned a penalty on the hour-mark as Shaun Maloney bamboozled Osman in the box with a lightning step-over and went to ground.
There was little doubt that Osman had stuck his leg out late and that he had been beaten by the trick, but there appeared to be little actual contact as Maloney fell and referee Lee Mason decided the Scot's protests warranted a caution rather than a spot-kick.
Pienaar was guilty of stepping on Caldwell's leg moments later but Wigan continued to pour forward with Toffees captain Phil Neville producing a timely block to prevent Kone from levelling.
Neville was becoming the seventh player to make 500 Premier League appearances and he went on to mark the occasion with an assist 13 minutes from time - his floated cross perfectly met by Jagielka's powerful leap for a goal that seemingly buried the game.
Still Wigan would not lie down and Kone ensured a nervy final eight minutes when he held off both Distin and Jagielka to toe-poke home and halve the deficit, but Everton clung on to ensure the Latics' winless run stretched to six games.
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Everton v Wigan
Phil Jagielka has warned Marouane Fellaini he may struggle to get back into the Everton side.
Everton boss David Moyes admitted his team were "never comfortable" after securing a hard-fought 2-1 win over Wigan.
Wigan manager Roberto Martinez was left frustrated after they were edged out 2-1 by Everton at Goodison Park.