Wigan fight back to earn draw
Zaki levels after Bramble error
Last Updated: September 13, 2008 7:10pm
Wigan Athletic fought back to earn a point against Sunderland and hung on after Lee Cattermole was sent off late on.
The Black Cats took the lead on 14 minutes when Steed Malbranque's corner was headed back out to his feet by the Wigan defence, and the resulting cross back towards goal was headed into his own net by Titus Bramble.
The mistake by the former Newcastle United man was careless, but it kick-started Wigan's attack and from then on in it was the hosts that looked the more likely to score.
The second half was much of the same as Wigan continued to press for an equaliser, and it finally came on 77 minutes, with Amr Zaki meeting Maynor Figueroa's cross and slotting the ball past Craig Gordon to level for his side.
The celebrations were cut short as Cattermole received a second yellow for a late challenge on Teemu Tainio, but the hosts were able to withstand renewed Sunderland pressure to hold on to their point.
Steve Bruce opted for Emile Heskey, who was impressive for England in their 4-1 win over Croatia midweek, and Zaki up-front, while Roy Keane handed Anton Ferdinand his debut in the centre of the Sunderland defence.
The visitors had started well, camping inside the Wigan box from the kick-off and gaining an early reward after Kieran Richardson's bright run down the left had ended in Chris Kirkland turning his low shot past the post.
Malbranque's resulting corner was half-cleared back to the former Fulham man, who drilled the ball straight back towards the six-yard box - where Bramble, unchallenged, headed it into his own net.
Wigan found themselves with a fine chance to equalise in the 21st minute when the ball squirmed loose to Heskey on the edge of the Sunderland six-yard box, but the striker's shot was well blocked by Gordon.
Moments later, the home side came close again when Figueroa's lofted ball into the box was met by the dangerous Zaki in plenty of space - but his header sailed harmlessly wide of target.
Wigan forced another corner in the 27th minute, from which former Sunderland man Kilbane found Figueroa - whose low effort from the left side of the box was blocked by Ferdinand.
Kilbane himself came close on the half-hour when Valencia dragged back a cross from the left corner flag and the Irishman stooped to direct a shot inches past a stretching Gordon's left-hand post.
But the visitors survived the spell of pressure and almost went further ahead in the 37th minute when Cisse burst clear down the right and saw his low shot turned across the face of goal and out for a corner by Kirkland.
Wigan started the second half as they had finished the first - forcing two corners inside the opening three minutes, the second of which had to be punched away athletically by Gordon.
But the Latics were badly lacking that crucial final ball into the box, and Bruce responded by introducing playmaker Jason Koumas in the 56th minute in place of the busy Kilbane.
Koumas immediately began running at the visitors' defence, though it held firm, with a sustained attack petering out when Mario Melchiot's cross caught Zaki offside in front of goal.
Sunderland had another chance to extend their leading in the 62nd minute when Malbranque's pass sent Cisse clear inside the Wigan box, but the striker's low shot was saved by Kirkland's stretching legs.
Wigan poured back with more pressure, Valencia's point-blank strike somehow blocked by McCartney, substitute Olivier Kapo bringing a fine save out of Gordon from long range and Zaki's header grazing the post.
Finally Sunderland's resistance was broken when Figueroa crossed from the left and Zaki was quickest to react, firing a fine left-foot shot into the corner of the net.
There was still time for plenty of drama, Cattermole seeing red and both sides refusing to settle for a point before referee Rob Styles eventually blew the whistle on a richly entertaining afternoon.
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