Baines keeps Wigan on the brink

Wigan Athletic 1 Everton 1: Former Latics hero succeeds with Everton's second penalty after Al Habsi save raises hosts' hopes
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The Independent Football

Leighton Baines was part of Paul Jewell's Wigan team who broke new ground by climbing into the top flight in 2005, but his late intervention, a penalty equaliser with 13 minutes remaining, denied his old club a vital victory in their efforts to remain among the elite. After Charles N'Zogbia's 21st-minute opener, Ali Al Habsi kept Wigan's lead intact by saving Mikel Arteta's penalty, and with Everton short of attacking inspiration, they held the advantage for almost an hour. However, Hugo Rodallega then handled Baines's near-post corner and the old boy came back to haunt them.

Wigan began with a burst of energy, Ben Watson giving Rodallega a sight of goal inside two minutes only for the Colombian to drag his shot wide. Although Everton were soon seeing plenty of the ball, it was Wigan who made the breakthrough. Maynor Figueroa carried the ball forward down the left, Tom Cleverley fed it on to JamesMcCarthy and his chipped pass freed N'Zogbia on the right side of the box. The chance looked to have passed when, challenged by Tim Howard, the Frenchman checked back and stumbled. But he swiftly regained his footing, turned and curled a fine shot around Howard into the far corner.

Everton looked to respond and within a minute the lively Leon Osman had forced a fingertip save from Al Habsi. The Omani goalkeeper, on loan from Bolton, had made a costly mistake in Wigan's defeat at Manchester City last month when letting a David Silva shot trickle through his legs but he came to the rescue in the 35th minute by saving Arteta's penalty. N'Zogbia made a rash challenge by diving in to fell Osman after the Everton man had collected a short corner from Baines just inside the penalty box but Arteta, back after a six-game absence, failed to beat Al Habsi, who dived low to his left to palm the ball away.

Wigan lost Mohamed Diamé and N'Zogbia to thigh injuries either side of the break but the latter's replacement, Victor Moses, quickly assumed the mantle as the main threat to Everton's defence, forcing two near-post saves from Howard in quick succession and giving Baines some uncomfortable moments. When his trickery left the England left-back on his backside, McCarthy was twice denied the opportunity to capitalise as Phil Neville and Phil Jagielka both got in blocks.

Wigan's manager, Roberto Martinez, who expects to have Diamé and N'Zogbia back next week, said: "Probably the key moment was in the second half when Everton were trying to go forward and left themselves exposed a little. We took advantage of that but Tim Howard was in outstanding form." The Spaniard applauded his side's character, saying: "We kept the ball very well and were really brave and opened Everton up a couple of times with really good pass and move and scored a good goal from open play. It is an another point – we couldn't afford to lose today."

Although Everton had Tim Cahill and Arteta starting a game together for the first time since mid-February, neither looked at his best, and despite Osman's best efforts Everton lacked spark. Their manager, David Moyes, responded by introducing Jermaine Beckford and Seamus Coleman midway through the second half but it took Rodallega's misjudgement to get them level.

After Al Habsi had turned behind a Jagielka shot, the Colombian stuck out a hand when Baines swung the ball back in and gave Baines the chance to succeed where Arteta had failed. He made no mistake, lashing the ball high to Al Habsi's right.

"The ball was swirling around, Hugo jumped too early and on the way down it hit his hand. He is devastated, as you can imagine," said Martinez. Steve Round, Moyes's assistant, paid Wigan credit for "going right to the end".

Rodallega might have made amends but saw one shot beaten away by Howard before finding the side-netting. When Howard spilled a Figueroa cross in injury time, the Colombian drove high over the crossbar. If this was tense, just wait till Wigan's remaining home game against West Ham.

Attendance: 17,051

Referee: Lee Mason

Man of the match: Tim Howard

Match rating: 6/10