Wigan’s hopes of pulling off another great escape act in preserving their Premier League status suffered a huge blow on Tuesday as they lost 3-2 at home to League Cup winners Swansea.
Wigan – who play Manchester City in the FA Cup final on Saturday – only had themselves to blame as they twice let Swansea equalise and handed the visitors, who were winning their first game in nine, their third on a plate.
Defeat leaves Wigan – whose manager Roberto Martinez made his name managing Swansea – third from bottom, three points adrift of Newcastle, Sunderland and Norwich with two games remaining.
Wigan had the better of the first half hour against a Swansea side shorn of their leading scorer Michu, who was out injured.
However, despite dominating their only clear cut chance fell to Ivorian striker Arouna Kone, whose shot came back off the legs of Swans’ goalkeeper Michel Vorm.
Swansea’s best effort came from a free-kick inside the Wigan penalty area – after Joel Robles picked up a back pass by Gary Caldwell – but from only a few yards out centre-back Ashley Williams blasted it high over the bar.
Wigan’s Scottish star Shaun Maloney found the target in the 41st minute with a trademark free-kick but unfortunately for him it was straight into the arms of Vorm.
However, Vorm could do nothing right on half-time as Honduran Roger Espinoza – who had come into the side for the injured Jean Beausejour – produced a superb volley for his first goal for the club.
Swansea came out with a bit more ambition in the second-half and mounted some early pressure and it paid off in the 50th minute.
Wayne Routledge put a superb ball into the area finding Angel Rangel and the Spanish player, one of the few remaining players at Swansea from the Martinez days, volleyed it home brilliantly, although he kept his celebrations muted out of respect for his former boss.
Precious points slip away
It took just three minutes for Wigan to regain the lead with a delightful goal, Caldwell striding forward and producing a superb pass for the onrushing James McCarthy, who shot from the edge of the area beating the diving Vorm.
It should have been 3-1 three minutes later as Kone played a superb ball into the penalty area but James McArthur, from only yards out, failed to connect.
That looked ever more costly as Caldwell passed sloppily to Routledge and the ball eventually fell to Itay Schechter whose shot took a deflection off Emerson Boyce and flew past Robles for his first goal for the club.
Wigan were denied retaking the lead for a third time in the 68th minute as Vorm produced a superb save to tip over Caldwell’s header which was going towards the top corner.
|Edin Dzeko (L) expertly scored Man City’s winner after good work from Carlos Tevez [GALLO/GETTY]|
Yet again, though, Wigan’s Achilles heel all season, their defending, contributed to the killer goal.
Even with seven players in their box they failed to clear the ball and the farcical situation was summed up when McArthur and Maloney went for the same ball and Maloney’s weak chest down fell to Dwight Tiendali.
The Suriname-born former Dutch Under-21 international’s tame shot bounced before entering the net and with it probably went Wigan’s Premier League status.
Any rhythm they could get back into their play came to a halt when Vorm and Ben Davies required medical attention after a clash of heads with the Dutch goalkeeper then being taken off on a stretcher.
Carlos Tevez advanced a compelling case for a place in Manchester City’s FA Cup final team with an effervescent display in his side’s 1-0 win at home to West Bromwich Albion.
The Argentine was one of eight players drafted into the team by manager Roberto Mancini and he created the game’s only goal in the 35th minute with a cross that was dispatched by Edin Dzeko.
Tevez will now hope to get the nod on Saturday when City tackle Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium.
Victory took City seven points clear of Chelsea in second place, 10 points below champions Manchester United, while West Brom, who have not won in seven games, remain eighth.