Scrappy Everton get the benefit of the doubt
Everton 2 Wigan 1:Hard-luck tales bring added torment in the relegation zone and they are mounting for Roberto Martinez and Wigan. For the second festive-season game in succession the Wigan manager was left bemoaning a crucial penalty decision as Leon Osman, with a fortuitous goal at one end and a reprieve at the other, gave Everton the winning edge.
On Saturday it was Theo Walcott’s tumble that incensed Martinez and cost Wigan a point against Arsenal. On St Stephen’s Day it was Shaun Maloney’s fall in the Everton area that stirred similar emotions in the Spaniard as his team were denied a valuable draw on Merseyside.
Martinez was right to lament an outcome that did not reflect the Wigan performance, but to pin it on the referee Lee Mason’s interpretation of Osman’s challenge on Maloney was debatable.
The Scotland international appeared to be going to ground before making contact with the Everton midfielder’s knee. Arguably, the real source of Martinez’s ire was the time-honoured tradition of borderline decisions going against the struggling club.
“The penalty was clear and it was the reason we didn’t get the positive result that we deserved,” said the Wigan manager, whose team are firmly ensconced in the bottom three but, just like last season, appear to have the class and belief to mount a recovery. “You will see the contact clearly on the replays. Maloney is past, Osman doesn’t follow the player, and sticks his leg out.
“The reaction of Osman tells you everything. He ran away thinking he got away with it. He wasn’t angry, he didn’t try to say that Maloney had dived. Contact was very clear and I couldn’t believe it. As an experienced referee you know that he didn’t need to dive because he was in a great position one on one with the ’keeper, so that’s why the decision was a real surprise.”
Result above performance
David Moyes, who in contrast to Martinez was able to savour the result above the performance, was closer to the truth with his assessment of an incident that came six minutes after Osman had put Everton ahead. He said: “From the dugout I thought it was a penalty but when you look at it again there is debate over whether there is contact or not.”
Everton have now taken 68 points in this calendar year, the highest total since their last title-winning year of 1987, but this was a scrappy display.
Aside from howling for a penalty when a series of corners produced the customary wrestling matches, Everton rarely threatened in a first half as grim as the weather. Their control of the game was frequently undermined by a careless final pass and it was Wigan who carried the greater threat.
The second half, however, brought a change in urgency and fortune from the home side who took the lead when Osman was allowed time to check on to his left foot outside the Wigan area. His shot took a vicious deflection off the inside of Gary Caldwell’s arm and completely wrong-footed Ali al-Habsi in goal.
Thomas Hitzlsperger struck the Wigan bar from 30-yards as Everton looked to dominate, but the threat from Martinez’s men remained. Mason’s refusal to award Maloney the penalty prompted a furious reaction from the Wigan players.
Phil Jagielka appeared to put it beyond Wigan with a towering header into the top corner from a cross by Phil Neville. But Arouna Kone ensured a nervous finale after Franco Di Santo’s shot had spun into the air and despite appearing to use an arm, the Ivory Coast forward squeezed between Sylvain Distin and Leighton Baines to score.