Portsmouth 1 Wigan Athletic 0: Mwaruwari asks questions Wigan fail to answer

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The Independent Online

Four games, three wins and no goals conceded. All seemed rosy here at the final whistle as Portsmouth's victorious players walked off the pitch after a gritty win over Wigan Athletic. Their supporters bellowed at the top of their voices "we're going to win the league, we're going to win the league." Although manager Harry Redknapp dampened those sentiments very quickly, he remains confident in the potential of his ever-evolving squad.

"I think there are two teams that are going to win the league, either Manchester United or Chelsea," he said with a broad smile after it had been put to him whether he agreed with that level of optimism from the Portsmouth fans. "I don't see anyone else. It is just nice to get off to get a good start. I took training yesterday and looked at the squad. I have a really good feeling here and we've got a few lads to come back."

Portsmouth started confidently, looking strong against a Wigan side that were nervous and twitchy for much of the game. Redknapp's men came into this match having beaten Middlesbrough comprehensively at the Riverside Stadium. This performance was different and the home side flattered to deceive for much of it, but they still managed to take the points, thanks to Benjani Mwaruwari's second-half goal.

"You are not always going to go places like Middlesbrough and score four goals or play Blackburn and score three," Redknapp added. "But four clean sheets is the most important thing."

Former Chelsea full-back Glen Johnson galloped down the wing just two minutes in, but his cross found no one. It seemed the signal, however, for a promising showing for the home team. Mwaruwari and strike partner Kanu threatened with some neat interplay but they failed to trouble Wigan goalkeeper Chris Kirkland. Meanwhile a midfield quartet, that included the returning Pedro Mendes after his collision with Ben Thatcher, was energetic, snapping into challenges and attacking supply-lines.

As the first half drew on, it descended into an unattractive affair. Wigan largely remained rooted in their own half of the pitch. Even when they were presented with an opportunity to open the scoring, the midfielder Denny Landzaat contrived to fire a free-kick from the edge of the penalty area into the defensive wall. At the interval, there was precious little to separate the teams. Both were dismal.

But it all changed four minutes into the second half as Portsmouth took the lead. The defender Sol Campbell's defensive clearance fell into the path of Mwaruwari, who confidentially slotted the ball low under Kirkland. The Fratton Park crowd erupted. Forgotten was the first half mediocrity, they found their voices, and as the half wore on, their players found their rhythm and attacked with conviction.

Wigan ended with a whimper. They failed to pose any serious questions of their opponents and left many unanswered about their own credentials.

Wigan manager Paul Jewell said: "I am very disappointed. We are trying to improve the club on and off the pitch and prove any people that think we are one-season wonders wrong."

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