Tottenham 0-1 Wigan: Friedel clanger presents Watson with precious winner
London: Tottenham’s home woes continued as Wigan grabbed a second 1-0 victory at White Hart Lane in three years.
Wigan opened the scoring through Ben Watson after Brad Friedel’s weak punch landed at his feet, enabling him to tuck the ball past the American.
The loss incensed the home support, and increased calls for Spurs’ Portuguese manager to replace his ageing goalkeeper with Hugo Lloris.
Andre Villas-Boas named an unchanged line-up from the side that beat Southampton in their last Premier League fixture, with Lloris returned to the bench and Emmanuel Adebayor left in limbo, yet to make a first start under Villas-Boas.
Roberto Martinez made eight changes to the team that lost to Bradford on Wednesday, restoring the XI that beat West Ham last weekend barring the enforced inclusion of Watson for the injured James McArthur.
Both sides were looking to bounce back from mid-week Capital One Cup exits, but it was Tottenham who started the brighter as Clint Dempsey raced through on goal, smashing his shot into the side-netting.
Both sides pressed high, disturbing each other’s ability to build from the back resulting in a scrappy opening exchange, though it was the home side, through Tom Huddlestone especially, who began to exert greater control.
Tottenham were dealt a blow in the 22nd minute when Sandro, intimating that there was a problem with his thigh, was forced out of the game to be replaced by Gylfi Sigurdsson.
Wigan sensed weakness immediately, with Shaun Maloney exploiting Spurs` new-found immobility and ponderousness in midfield.
Drifting inside, the Scottish playmaker set up Arouna Kone who should have put the Latics ahead before latching onto Franco Di Santo’s through-ball and firing his shot straight at an onrushing Friedel.
After a bland first half, both sides started the second with more purpose. Dempsey tested Ali Al-Habsi once more but it was Wigan who would finally end the deadlock.
Maloney’s corner fell on top of Friedel and the American weakly patted the ball towards the penalty spot and a waiting Watson, who struck his shot first time towards goal. The veteran keeper looked to have scrambled across his line and clawed the ball away, but it was adjudged to have crossed the line.
Villas-Boas responded by introducing Adebayor in place of an often isolated and ineffective Jermain Defoe and, encouraged vigorously by the home crowd and assistant manager Steffen Freund, Spurs began to attack with greater intent.
The Lilywhites went more direct, switching Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale, launching balls into the box towards Adebayor and Dempsey, but that rather played to the strengths of Wigan and Gary Caldwell especially.
Spurs’ half-hearted onslaught was to little avail, and they rarely tested Al-Habsi barring several speculative efforts from outside the box.
Back-to-back wins propel Wigan up the table, echoing the incredible end-of-season form that saved them from certain relegation last year, while Spurs’ home form will continue to worry Villas-Boas.