It was with a goal in stoppage time here on the opening day of last season that Chelsea launched their title-winning campaign and they were celebrating again at the last gasp yesterday evening. Coasting after scoring twice in the opening 31 minutes, the champions suffered the unaccustomed experience of seeing a two-goal lead wrested from them as Wigan mounted a wonderfully spirited comeback.
But Chelsea are not without steel or courage. They might have lost, such was the determination of Wigan not to disappoint a full-house crowd. Instead, after Jose Mourinho had tossed Andriy Shevchenko and John Obi Mikel into the mix in a final attempt to keep Manchester United from going clear at the top, Arjen Robben came up with another winning goal at the death. United, therefore, remain only two points in front, yet the response from Mourinho was unusually circumspect.
Given Chelsea's problems, including injuries to John Terry, Petr Cech and Joe Cole and the perception that disciplinary points are being accumulated less than fairly, Mourinho felt that two points adrift at this stage is not bad. At the same time, however, there was no crowing; instead a frank admission that he found the manner of last night's victory unacceptable.
"At 2-0 it was an easy game but you have to play the easy game for 90 minutes and kill off the opposition," he said. "At 2-0 our players think the game is over but it was not. We started making mistakes, Wigan scored and after that they dominated the game until they scored again.
"We were lucky to get the goal," Mourinho added. "It could easily have been Wigan who scored again. Maybe we deserved to be punished, maybe Wigan deserved to get the points."
Wigan would certainly concur. Without a goal in four home matches previously, they fell behind in the 13th minute when collectively they failed to pick up Frank Lampard's run into the penalty area. By the 31st minute, it looked like another depressing addition to the sequence. Robben delivered a corner from the left and the 21-year-old Salomon Kalou stole a yard on Arjan de Zeeuw to head his first Premiership goal.
But it was that which signalled a startling shift in the balance of the game. Given a timely lift when Emile Heskey nodded home Josip Skoko's free-kick in first-half stoppage time, Wigan acquired a competitive edge in the second half, with Skoko and Kevin Kilbane matching Lampard and company in the centre.
Chelsea, who might have gone further ahead when Lampard dragged a shot wide and when Kalou was ruled narrowly offside, found themselves under sustained pressure and when Heskey turned home Denny Landzaat's low cross 15 minutes from time Wigan thoroughly deserved to be level.
What came next was a shattering blow for the home side. Wigan's manager, Paul Jewell, felt his players switched off. Again Robben was the key player, himself providing the coup de grâce, a stinging low shot on the end of a darting run from the right apparently catching Wigan goalkeeper Chris Kirkland unsighted but keeping Manchester United squarely in view.Reuse content