Schwarzer's heroics defy Wigan blitz
Wigan Athletic 1 Fulham 1
Monday 09 November 2009
On a day when giants collided at Stamford Bridge and Phil Brown fought for his survival on Humberside, this match was so obviously a footnote that the first words of this report should be "and finally".
And yet, as the Beatles proved 46 years ago to the day when appearing bottom of a seven-act bill on Thank Your Lucky Stars, sometimes something glorious lurks in the shadows. This was an often fabulous and always interesting game of football, a thought that might sustain the handful of Fulham fans on their journey back to London. "It felt more like a 3-3 than a 1-1," their manager, Roy Hodgson, said.
The last half-empty arena his side had appeared in was the Olympic Stadium in Rome on Thursday night which had been scarred by refereeing decisions, including Erik Nevland's dismissal which Hodgson described as "one of the most laughable I have ever seen".
In the less grandiose surroundings of the DW Stadium – which has fewer classical statues but rather better pies – Nevland experienced another kind of frustration as his early header from Bobby Zamora's cross looped over Chris Kirkland and struck the post.
Wigan's response was emphatic. Hodgson wondered aloud how Erik Edman's cross could be knocked down so simply and effectively by Paul Scharner to be finished off by Emmerson Boyce for the centre-half's second goal in three games.
Unlike Hodgson, who admitted that after the breathless drama of their victory over Liverpool and his growing disillusionment with their Europa League campaign he was happy with a point, Roberto Martinez wanted more. "You could use Mark Schwarzer as an example to young people of how effective goalkeepers can be," the Wigan manager remarked. "If we play like that in our next 10 games, we will win eight of them."
Of all Schwarzer's heroics, two saves stood out; both from Charles N'Zogbia. The first from a 30-yard shot was pushed on to the crossbar; the second, after a run of rather more than 30 yards, was turned away at full stretch.
Under both Martinez and his predecessor, Steve Bruce, Wigan have been adept at unearthing footballers from some of the game's more distant shores. Martinez spent 14 months watching Mohamed Diamé at Rayo Vallecano in the Spanish Second Division and on this evidence the comparisons with a young Patrick Vieira do not sound outlandish.
"He has power, quality and composure on the ball; Vieira had that," said Martinez. "Once he understands the nature of the British game, he will be a special player."
There have been plenty of words used to describe Titus Bramble, whose clumsy tackle on Clint Dempsey as he turned to shoot conceded a penalty that the American converted himself. But perhaps the truest was Bruce's observation that: "Titus doesn't make many mistakes, but when he does, they are always expensive."
Wigan Athletic (4-4-2): Kirkland; Melchiot, Bramble, Boyce, Edman (Sinclair, 78); N'Zogbia, Scharner, Thomas, Diame; Rodallega, Scotland (Koumas, 90). Substitutes not used: Pollitt (gk), Cho, Amaya, Gomez, De Ridder.
Fulham (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky; Duff, Greening (Etuhu, 79), Baird, Dempsey; Zamora, Nevland (Gera, 85). Substitutes not used: Zuberbuhler (gk), Kelly, Riise, Smalling, Dikgacoi.
Referee: P Dowd (Staffordshire).
Booked: Wigan Athletic Edman, Bramble; Fulham Etuhu.
Man of the match: Schwarzer.
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