Wigan 1-1 Chelsea: Cech Howler Costs Blues + Video Highlights

By on December 18, 2011

Jodi Gomez snatched a late equaliser for Wigan Athletic, preventing a fourth straight league win for Chelsea. Daniel Sturridge had given the visitors the lead at the DW Stadium just  before the hour mark, but Andre Villas Boas’ side were to bemoan a series of missed chances before goalkeeper Petr Cech spilled a routine save to allow Gomez to equalise in the 88th minute.

Chelsea were hoping to continue a smart run of form at a venue that has proved fruitful in recent seasons; three points would have put pressure on second placed Manchester United who were not due to play for a further 24 hours. And confidence in the Chelsea camp was high coming into the game in Lancashire after becoming the first team to beat league leaders Manchester City on Monday. The win at Stamford Bridge acted as a signal to Villas Boas’ rivals that Chelsea have not thrown in the towel in the race for the title, after an indifferent opening to the season.

It was to some surprise then that the hosts- who clawed themselves from the foot of the table last week with a vital win away at West Brom- looked the more likely to take the lead in this game. There were two early claims for a penalty when Gomez appeared to be tripped by Ashely Cole, and another altercation involving Branislav Ivanovich. Martin Atkinson however failed to see any infringement and Chelsea weathered the early storm.

The game took on a more pedestrian look as Chelsea began to build attacks at the own pace, passing nicely between the back four and the midfield quartet but there was no evidence of a likely scorer from either side. Chelsea were restricted by a Wigan side who appear to be steadying the ship somewhat under Roberto Martinez’s stewardship; they closed down and repressed the visitors’ forays into their final third as if the last-gasp fight for Premier League survival had already begun.

Chelsea’s desperation was such that even captain John Terry tried his luck from 30-yards, whilst Oriel Romeu also had a speculative effort from distance, neither of which really troubled Wigan keeper Ali Al Habsi. Didier Drogba flashed the game’s best chance so far over just before the break; a diving header from a Raul Meireles cross.

Seemingly unhappy to sit through another 45-minutes of the same calibre of football, Villas-Boas decided to introduce Salomon Kalou for the ineffective Romeu. His impact was immediate: the Ivorian breaking down the left before finding his countryman Drogba who fired wide, but it would not take long before the deadlock would be broken.

Sturridge, who had proved a nuisance to the Wigan defence all game with his movement and pace, latched onto a lofted Cole pass and having taken one touch to bring the ball under control, the young Lion fired past Al Habsi for his fourth goal in five league appearances; his ninth goal of this campaign.

With the dilemma of the opening goal out of the way, the path now looked clear for the visitors to assert their class and at least double their lead. But the Blues failed to carve out any further chances that the likes of the in-form Sturridge thrive on and Wigan sought a way back into the game. Maynor Figueroa responded with a fierce effort that was destined for the bottom corner before Cech reached to pull off a brilliant save. Hugo Rodallega and Franco Di Santo were introduced with 20 minutes remaining; Martinez showing every intent of cutting the deficit by bringing on the two forwards which nearly immediately paid off.

Ivanovich’s weak back pass was cut out by Rodallega and whilst Cech did well to block the Colombian’s path to goal, the rebound fell to Di Santo whose goal bound effort was not quick enough, allowing Ivanovich to clear from the empty goal and atone for his error. But that one calamity was to breed the next and this one proved decisive to Chelsea’s downfall. Wigan, to their credit did not give up hope of an equaliser and their efforts were rewarded when impact sub Rodellega poked the ball towards goal on 88 minutes, only for Cech to spill the most routine of saves for Gomez to execute a simple finish.

Their was not enough stoppage time for Chelsea to respond, and the chance to close the gap on their rivals was gone. Whilst it seems harsh to pin the blame on keeper Cech, manager Villas-Boas will be seething with the experienced Czech. But the Blues did not do enough at the other end of the pitch to ensure they took all three points back home to London. This was one spill Chelsea cannot afford to repeat.

Watch highlights from Wigan 1-1 Chelsea

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