Reds sneak victory over Wigan
Liverpool secure fortunate win at the JJB
By Peter Fraser. Last Updated: 29/09/07 6:27pm
Benayoun: Match winner
Yossi Benayoun was the match winner in a hard-fought encounter between Wigan and Liverpool at the JJB Stadium.
The Israeli midfielder came off the bench to show great composure to net Liverpool's 75th minute winner in a 1-0 victory.
Shots at goal were at a premium throughout the 90 minutes, but Wigan will feel aggrieved to have lost the encounter.
The Latics seemed to have a penalty shout harshly turned down when Julius Aghahowa was brought down by Jamie Carragher, but the appeal was denied for a questionable offside flag against the inactive Paul Scharner.
Wigan were again ruing an offside decision after the interval when Marcus Bent fired home only to be denied by a contentious flag.
However, Benayoun then entered the fray to secure Liverpool a fortunate victory.
There had been a great debate surrounding Fernando Torres in the build-up to this encounter due to Rafa Benitez's continual rotation of his stars.
Torres had sat on the bench for the previous two league matches in which Liverpool had failed to score at Portsmouth and at home to Birmingham.
Benitez then handed the Spain international a start in the midweek Carling Cup tie at Reading, and he responded with a hat-trick, and he ultimately opted to pair him with Dirk Kuyt at the JJB.
Torres had Liverpool's three best chances in an opening 45 minutes in which goalkeeper Jose Reina was a virtual spectator.
That was due to Wigan being deprived of their two first-choice strikers, with Antoine Sibierski a late withdrawal with a hamstring problem, joining Emile Heskey on the sidelines.
Appreciably, after Wigan had started brightly, Liverpool edged into the game with every minute that passed and after Jermaine Pennant and John Arne Riise had shots blocked, Torres took over.
His first effort in the 25th minute was scuffed after Kuyt had delightfully cushioned a downward header to a Pennant cross into his path, giving Chris Kirkland a comfortable take.
His second on the half hour came after a woeful error from life-long Reds fan Jason Koumas who sprayed a pass along the halfway line directly to Kuyt.
The Holland forward immediately set Torres clear, and after outpacing Emmerson Boyce, he stabbed a shot goalwards that was blocked at point-blank range by Kirkland.
Wigan were then fortunate as the ricochet sprang off the Spaniard and rebounded inches past the left-hand post.
The spectacular followed from Torres two minutes later with a scissor kick that was just wide after rising to meet a right-wing ball from Alvaro Arbeloa, with Wigan's defence nowhere.
But then after the break Torres went missing as Wigan played with a fierce determination to their game, in particular with Titus Bramble an immense presence in defence.
Bent did have the ball in the net in the 50th minute, but it was controversially ruled out, stifling his delight.
Aghahowa, running back when the ball was played in by Josip Skoko, was offside, but not Bent who was three yards on when the cross was delivered.
Koumas forced Reina into his only meaningful save of the game five minutes later, before a combination of Kirkland and Skoko denied Kuyt soon after.
As the game started to swing from end to end, an ungainly flick from Scharner as he beat Reina to a Koumas ball over the top finished agonisingly wide.
Then after Steven Gerrard had screamed a 25-yard drive narrowly past the right-hand post, the Reds finally broke the deadlock 15 minutes from time.
Benayoun, on for Fabio Aurelio in the 56th minute, had plenty of work to do in picking up the ball a few yards outside the Wigan area.
But with an innocuous flick he gave himself time and space before beating Kirkland with a low shot.
Wigan, though, should have taken a point, only for Aghahowa to bury a six-yard header to a Koumas cross inches wide in injury time.
|Wigan Athletic||Team Statistics||Liverpool|
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|2||Shots on Target||5|
|5||Shots off Target||6|
Barclays Premier League
|10||West Ham United||33||43|
|13||West Bromwich Albion||33||36|
|19||Queens Park Rangers||33||26|