Latics edge thriller
By Mark Buckingham. Last Updated: 26/12/05 4:55pm
Wigan Athletic won the battle of the European hopefuls after edging a rollercoaster game against Manchester City 4-3.
In a mesmerising encounter, Antoine Sibierski put City ahead after just three minutes before Wigan moved 4-1 in front through a double from Jason Roberts and goals from Lee McCulloch and Henri Camara.
A magnificent goal from Joey Barton gave City hope and substitute Andy Cole netted a third, but the visitors could not find an equaliser, with goalkeeper David James even sent up for a late corner.
City enjoyed the perfect start at The JJB Stadium when they took the lead inside three minutes. David Sommeil's cross to the far post was headed home by Sibierski, although questions have to be raised about the defensive skills of Pascal Chimbonda.
Wigan made light of the early setback and quickly offered a riposte. Jimmy Bullard's sweet drive was fumbled by James, while Camara dragged an attempt wide.
The Latics' pressure was rewarded with an equaliser on 11 minutes, with Sylvain Distin contributing to City's downfall.
Distin firstly failed to cut out Gary Teale's pass to Jason Roberts and then declined to chase the Wigan striker as he drilled his shot in off the post.
Teale was the provider for Wigan's second goal on 23 minutes as his cross from the right flank was met by the head of McCulloch, with Nedum Onuoha guilty of slack marking.
City almost drew level immediately, after an inadvertent one-two between Barton and Darius Vassell. Barton's pass hit Vassell on the heel and rebounded into the midfielder's path, but his delicate chip came back off the post.
After setting up the first two Wigan goals, Teale should have scored himself on 39 minutes after being picked out unmarked by Camara.
As he advanced on James, Teale tried to lift the ball over the onrushing keeper, but the England international blocked the shot.
Though the best chances were being created by Wigan, City were not without a threat of their own and Vassell headed a Trevor Sinclair cross over.
In the final minute of the first half, though, City conceded again, with Distin again at fault. Camara booted the ball downfield for Roberts to chase and he readily outmuscled Distin before placing his shot beyond James.
Early in the second half, the influential Barton was denied a goal for City twice in the same passage of play.
Barton's initial shot was saved by Mike Pollitt and bounced straight back to the midfielder, whose second attempt was headed off the line by Chimbonda.
City boss Stuart Pearce threw on Cole and Richard Dunne and both players were involved within a few minutes of their introduction.
Cole laid the ball off neatly for Sinclair to force Pollitt into a sprawling save from his volley, but it was Dunne's contribution that was more notable on 71 minutes.
Graham Kavanagh's pass released Camara and he made a mug of Dunne by pushing the ball through the defender's legs and finishing clinically past James.
But under Pearce, City are nothing if not game and they scored a sumptuous second goal on 77 minutes. The ball fell to the impressive Barton on the edge of the area and he let rip with a thunderous volley to give the visitors hope.
With two minutes left, City made it 4-3 as their persistence paid off. Sinclair's powerful run was thwarted by Wigan keeper Pollitt, but the ball ricocheted off the City winger to Cole, who swivelled sharply and lashed the ball home.
In the final minute, City could easily have equalised as Sinclair's cross from the right was met Sibierski, but unlike his earlier header, this one was off target.
Click here for player ratings
|Wigan Athletic||Team Statistics||Manchester City|
|3||1st Half Goals||1|
|4||Shots on Target||8|
|5||Shots off Target||6|
Barclays Premier League
Mon 26th Dec
Charlton0 - 1Arsenal
Tottenham2 - 0Birm'ham
Chelsea3 - 2Fulham
Man Utd3 - 0W Brom
Liverpool2 - 0Newcastle
Portsmth1 - 1West Ham
M'boro0 - 2Blackburn
Wigan4 - 3Man City
S'land0 - 0Bolton
A Villa4 - 0Everton
Barclays Premier League
|10||West Ham United||28||39|
|13||West Bromwich Albion||28||30|
|18||Queens Park Rangers||27||22|