Wigan Athletic 1 Arsenal 0: Jewell fights off Wenger's attack with verbal volley

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The Independent Football

The Wigan Athletic manager, Paul Jewell, responded to his team's Carling Cup semi-final first-leg victory last night with some fierce criticism of Arsène Wenger after the Arsenal manager alleged that his striker Jason Roberts had deliberately "left his foot in" during a second-half collision with goalkeeper Manuel Almunia.

Substitute Paul Scharner's 78th-minute header secured a 1-0 win for Wigan ahead of the Highbury second leg on 24 January.

However, Roberts' 61st-minute challenge on Almunia, a seemingly routine collision unpunished by the referee, Howard Webb, left the Spaniard receiving lengthy treatment, and sparked a finger-wagging touchline bust-up between the two managers.

Wenger said: "I was not happy at all with Roberts because he left his foot in. He has to be bigger than that because he had no chance of getting the ball. We have all played football and you know when you have a chance of the ball and when you don't."

Jewell was equally critical of Wenger, though, and questioned the extent of Almunia's injury while urging the Arsenal manager to concentrate solely on his own personnel.

Jewell said: "I had a bit of an Arsène Wenger moment because I didn't see the incident, but Arsène turned round and started moaning, saying that Jason had left his foot in. I just told Arsène to look after Arsenal and leave me to look after my team.

"I don't know how badly injured Almunia was but he got up and launched the ball 70 yards upfield, so maybe he wasn't as injured as we thought. They're a great team Arsenal, but they've had more red cards than anyone."

Wenger, who refused to blame the second-half floodlight failure for his team's defeat, would not guarantee that his weakened team would be replaced by a more experienced line-up for the second leg.

Wenger continued: "I don't know what sort of team I will field in the second leg. It depends on our priorities, but the Carling Cup is for our younger players.

"Securing a stronger position in the Premiership remains our priority, but we have a good opportunity to beat Wigan at home and we will try to take that opportunity.

"In two weeks' time, we will have played two more games and I already don't have many players available through injury and tired legs. It is important that we keep our minds on what is most important."

The Arsenal manager added: "We fell asleep for the quick throw-in that led to their goal, but we didn't create enough going forward and that's why we lost the game. We didn't pressure their defenders enough."

Jewell admitted that his gamble on Scharner, a first-half substitute for the injured Lee McCulloch, paid off with the Austrian netting the crucial match winner. Scharner was a recent £2.5m buy from Brann Bergen.

Jewell said: "I just felt that, as a new player, Paul would give us the energy and enthusiasm that we needed and he really made a difference when he came on. It was a great goal he scored.

"I was angry with the players at half-time, though. It was a strange game and there was no tempo. I just told them that they may never get another chance like this and that they should do it for their wives and girlfriends. The second-half performance was much better, though, and I think we fully deserved to win the game at full-time. Arsenal will be the favourites for the second leg, but we don't have to win down there now. We only need to draw."

The lights went out nine minutes into the second half after a power cut in the Wigan area and the players went back to their dressing-rooms for a second interval.

Wigan Athletic (4-4-2): Pollitt; Chimbonda, Henchoz, De Zeeuw, Teale; Bullard, Kavanagh, McMillan, McCulloch (Scharner, 33); Roberts, Connolly (Johansson, 22). Substitutes not used: Filan (gk), Jackson, Francis.

Arsenal (4-1-4-1): Almunia; Gilbert (Larsson, 75), Senderos, Djourou, Cygan; Gilberto Silva; Ljungberg, Hleb, Flamini, Reyes (Fabregas, 72); Owusu-Abeyie (Lupoli, 72). Substitutes not used: Poom (gk), Bendtner.

Referee: H Webb (S Yorkshire).