Wigan Athletic 1 Manchester City 1: Scharner spearheads spirited fightback to give Bruce hope

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The last time Steve Bruce was at Wigan Athletic he lasted only 55 days, and yesterday another quick exit must have had its attractions. His side were behind within 30 seconds, and another defeat loomed to plant them deeper into relegation trouble. You should never go back, right?

Instead Wigan's new (or should that be recycled?) manager watched his players show a willingness to battle that will have warmed his inner being. The point made little difference to his team's position in the bottom three but at least it gave them some grounds for hope. They have now gone 12 games without a win; the flip side is that the run of eight successive defeats has come to a halt.

It was a clanger by Titus Bramble, who swung a lusty left boot and made minimal contact, that handed Manchester City and Geovanni their goal after 28 seconds but, instead of feeling sorry for themselves, Wigan rebounded off the ropes through Paul Scharner after 24 minutes and withstood the late sending-off of their captain, Mario Melchiot, for a two-footed lunge at Stephen Ireland after 89 minutes. Such draws can be built by persuasion into something grander.

Certainly Bruce was emphasising the positive afterwards. "The response was terrific," he said. "They could have folded but they had the courage to make a fist of it. It was a horrendous start, we've all done it and, tobe fair to Titus, he did well afterwards."

Wigan could hardly have made a much worse start to Bruce's first match in charge. The echoes of the boos directedby the visiting supporters at the former Manchester United captain had barely died down when a long, speculative punt was horribly miscued by Bramble. Geovanni, following up hopefully, was suddenly one-on-one with Chris Kirkland and he dribbled round the goalkeeper before rolling the ball intothe net.

Bruce's reaction was to hold his head in his hands, but if the new manager looked mortified, his team reacted commendably and were level after 24 minutes. A cross from Antonio Valencia slipped off the head of Vedran Corluka through to Jason Koumas, who skipped past the Croatian full-back before chipping to the far post. The City centre-backs had been dragged out of position by Emile Heskey's run to the opposite side of the area, and Scharner was alone and had most of the goal to aim for with his diving header from six yards.

Wigan might have won the match but much of their better work stems from the athleticism and labour of Heskey, and when he limped off after 53 minutes their thrust was limited. Even so, they almost took the lead with their first attack afterwards. Melchiot's cross was flicked on by Scharner and Ryan Taylor, who had come on for Heskey, hit an accurate volley withhis left foot that was stopped only by a fine save by Andreas Isaksson.

The Manchester City supporters had seen enough and began a lengthy campaign for the introduction of Rolando Bianchi. Although their demands were met with 11 minutes to go, there was no repeat of the last-gasp heroics of last weekagainst Reading.

Ireland was the goalscorer on that occasion, and he was at the centre of the final-minute dismissal of Melchiot. Both players dived in for a 50-50 ball near the touchline but the Wigan defender definitely jumped with two feet and the referee, Mike Riley, showed no hesitation in reaching for his red card.

"It happened right by the dug-out and it didn't look very nice," Sven Goran Eriksson, the City manager, said. "I have just watched it again and it didn't look any better."

Comments