Amr Zaki's untidy late equaliser in an untidy game enabled Wigan Athletic to do what neither they nor Sunderland had previously done this season by gleaning a home point. Only 12 minutes remained when theon-loan Egyptian striker kept himself high in the scoring charts with his fifth goal of the campaign and staved off the defeat that seemed probable for over an hour.
Roy Keane admitted he was not among the Premier League managers who showed an interest in the summer when his former Old Trafford skipper Steve Bruce acted on a tip-off and went to scout Zaki in Cairo. Keane was magnanimous enough afterwards to congratulate the boldness of the Wigan manager, who said: "Someone in the media said I was off my rocker when I signed Amr, but he is a goalscorer. He has as good a record as anyone in the world. He's No1 in Fifa's international rankings and has a fantastic attitude.
"I think we deserved a point. It wasn't happening for us at the start and maybe I should have changed it following the internationals, although how can you leave anyone out after winning 5-0?"
Wigan had also thrashed Notts County in the Carling Cup as well as trouncing Hull City, but Antonio Valencia and Wilson Palacios looked particularly leg-weary after their criss-crossing of the globe. As fallout from international fortnight goes, though, nothing had been more colourful than the spectacular row between Keane and the Fifa vice-president Jack Warner.
Much of the game lacked that sort of spark despite the intervention of Titus Bramble, who gifted the visitors a 15th-minute lead by stretching to head Steed Malbranque's left-wing cross past Chris Kirkwood.
Clearly, it is not just Newcastle United's present staff who are having a hard time of it, Sunderland's huge travelling support wasting no time in taunting the defender, who has plentyof previous with such misfortunes as well as a St James' Park past. Wigan could at least claim to have made slight progress with the timing of the concession. All three of the Premier League goals they had prev-iously conceded came in the first 10 minutes of games.
Partly through a flurry of corners, they soon rallied, although a defence fortified by new signings Anton Ferdinand and George McCartney stood up comfortably to Wigan's labouring efforts. Sunderland's new strike-force of El-Hadji Diouf and Djibril Cisse showed a turn of pace that tested the home defence and Cissé dragged one shot wide before hitting a clear chance against the legs of Kirkland when played in by Malbranque around the hour mark.
Belatedly, Wigan's attacking started to carry a cutting edge. Jason Koumas's side-step and centre should have brought the equaliser, only for Zaki to steer a free header against the outside of the post from 10 yards.
The impressive Maynor Figueroa brought a flying save from Craig Gordon from 30 yards and then provided the left-wing cross which somehow snaked past a line of Sunderland defenders for Zaki to skew home left-footed from close range.
Wigan might even have won it had their midfielder Lee Cattermole, already booked fortripping Cissé, not mistimed atackle on Teemu Tainio and received a second yellow card four minutes from time.
Keane was far from disheartened, though, and said: "I was disappointed with our use of the ball in the second half but we weren't bullied, as we were here last season. If Cissé takes his chance just after half-time, it's probably game over. We were forced back but we defended OK and the two new signings did very well."Reuse content