Wigan slumps to costly 3-2 loss to Swansea

Wigan twice squandered the lead to slump to a costly 3-2 home
loss to Swansea on Tuesday and stay rooted in the Premier League’s
relegation zone with just two games left.

The league’s perennial escapologist, Wigan would have clambered
out of the bottom three with a win but defensive howlers led to
Swansea striker Itay Shechter making it 2-2 in the 59th minute and
Dwight Tiendalli grabbing a scrappy winner in the 76th.

Wigan is three points from safety with games to come against
Arsenal away and Aston Villa at home. It has escaped relegation on
the final day in three of the last six seasons but this could be a
step too far.

”We have done it before and we can do it again – we can go
anywhere in the Premier League and get the points,” Wigan manager
Roberto Martinez said.

The hosts had twice taken the lead at DW Stadium, through Roger
Espinoza with the last kick of the first half and then James
McCarthy in the 53rd, canceling out Angel Rangel’s equalizer three
minutes earlier.

Newcastle, Norwich and Sunderland, who are all three points
clear of Wigan, as well as a host of other clubs above them will
have breathed a big sigh of relief when referee Kevin Friend blew
for full time after nine minutes of injury time following a
serious-looking injury to Swansea goalkeeper Michel Vorm. The
Netherlands international was carried off on a stretcher late on
after clashing with teammate Ben Davies in an aerial collision but
Swansea manager Michael Laudrup said Vorm wasn’t seriously
injured.

Wigan has an FA Cup final to look forward to against Manchester
City on Saturday but survival in England’s lucrative top division
is always the priority. The Latics could yet need to beat Arsenal
on Tuesday to have a chance of staying in the Premier League for a
ninth straight season.

”There are still many twists and turns,” Martinez said.
”Obviously today was a fantastic opportunity … but it doesn’t
change the fact we have to fight for every single point.”

”Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” blared out around DW Stadium
as the players warmed up, and fans heartily sang ”I’m A Believer”
as the match kicked off. They know in these parts that Wigan’s
season doesn’t really get going until April – while nerves are
jangling across much of the Premier League heading into the final
week of the campaign, Martinez and his players are usually at home
in this pressurized environment.

Not here.

Tension got the better of them in an end-to-end second half
marked by careless passing and defensive errors, allowing Swansea
to come away with all three points when it looked dead and buried
at halftime after a lackluster display and Espinoza’s volleyed goal
in stoppage time.

”It’s frustrating the way the match developed,” Martinez said.
”You have to accept we shot ourselves in the foot.”

Espinoza is new to this relegation scrap having only arrived
from MLS side Sporting Kansas City on free transfer in January but
briefly made himself a hero to supporters by planting a low shot in
at the near post after Vorm could only punch a deep cross out to
the edge of the penalty area.

Swansea has lost its way since capturing the League Cup in
February, winning just one of nine games with its top-flight status
basically secured. And without injured top scorer Michu, the Welsh
team should have been there for the taking.

However, Wigan started the second half sloppily and conceded an
equalizer when Wayne Routledge span his marker and curled a lofted
pass out to Rangel, who met it with an angled volley which flew in
off the far post.

That at least served to wake the hosts up and within three
minutes they were level with a goal made in Scotland, with McCarthy
running onto a pass from fellow national-team player Gary Caldwell
and driving a low shot into the net.

More hesitancy in the Wigan defense contributed to Swansea’s
second equalizer, though. Caldwell’s lazy ball out was seized upon
by Pablo Hernandez and the Spanish winger fed Shechter, who curled
a low, left-footed shot into the corner from the edge of the
area.

In a nervy final half-hour, Vorm saved brilliantly from
Caldwell’s fierce header before Shaun Maloney and James McArthur
got in each other’s way trying to deal with a cross and Tiendalli
swept in from close range.

Even worse for Wigan, Ronnie Stam came off with a suspected
broken leg – adding to the team’s injury problems ahead of the cup
final.