Di Santo late show stuns Cats

The striker claimed the points in the third minute of injury time

after James McArthur had caught Wes Brown in possession to complete

a miserable afternoon for the Black Cats. Sebastian Larsson had put

the home side ahead with just eight minutes gone, and Bruce’s men

would have been out of sight had it not been for Latics keeper Ali

Al-Habsi. However, Jordi Gomez’s 44th-minute penalty gave Wigan

hope, and a much-improved second-half display saw them clinch the

win in a dramatic conclusion. Sunderland have now won just two of

the 15 league games they have played on Wearside since New Year’s

Day, and Bruce was left in little doubt as to the feelings of the

supporters both before and after the final whistle. Bruce had

targeted a return of seven points from a run of four games which

started with last week’s home clash with Fulham and will continue

with a trip to Wolves and Blackburn’s visit to the north-east. A

single point from the first six on offer represents significantly

less that he was expecting, and that is simply not acceptable for

those fans who believe the manager is living on borrowed time. For

Wigan, a priceless victory to go with last week’s draw with

Blackburn after a run of eight defeats provided a welcome boost.

Former Latics boss Bruce went into the game with club chairman

Ellis Short having delivered an endorsement of sorts by insisting

in his programme notes that there was no need for panic. For 43

minutes, the home supporters among a crowd of 37,883 must have been

reassured that the Texan businessman’s confidence was well-founded.

The Black Cats were utterly dominant as Wigan showed exactly why

they are languishing at the foot of the table, creating nothing of

note going forward and struggling to stem the tide at the back. Had

it not been for keeper Al-Habsi, they might have gone in at the

break already beaten as Sunderland created chances at will. Yet it

was the Oman international’s error which handed the home side an

eighth-minute lead. Nicklas Bendtner had been ordered by Bruce to

be more selfish in front of goal, and his swerving right-foot shot

proved too hot for Al-Habsi to handle. The keeper spilled the ball

and although he managed to block Kieran Richardson’s follow-up, the

ball ran to Larsson and he thumped it home left-footed to get the

Black Cats off to the perfect start. Thereafter, Wigan were

indebted to their goalkeeper as Bruce’s side threatened to kill the

game off in double-quick time. He produced a fine save low to his

left to keep out Richardson’s near-post drive and then blocked

Brown’s header on the line from the resulting corner. Al-Habsi

distinguished himself once again with 23 minutes gone to palm away

Larsson’s free-kick and then recover to claim Phil Bardsley’s

follow-up. He then rescued his defence 12 minutes before the break

when John O’Shea was allowed to get his head to another Larsson

free-kick. Wigan belatedly worked their way into the game, although

Conor Sammon and Ronnie Stam were unable to take advantage of

half-chances. However, they were back on level terms by the time

the whistle sound, although the equaliser arrived in controversial

circumstances. Not for the first time, Victor Moses forced his way

into the penalty area from the left-hand side and went down under

Larsson’s challenge. The Swede protested his innocence, but to

little effect as referee Kevin Friend pointed to the spot with

television replays proving inconclusive. Gomez, however, took full

advantage, sending Keiren Westwood the wrong way to hand his side a

share of the spoils they scarcely deserved. Stephane Sessegnon

returned in determined mood and carved his way through the Wigan

defence within seconds, although he could not pick out any of the

three team-mates who had kept pace with him. Bendtner screwed a

48th-minute shot wide in a lively start to the half which kept Mr

Friend fully occupied. He turned down penalty appeals from both

sides in quick succession as first Jack Colback blasted a shot into

James McCarthy’s arm from point-blank range and Sammon went to

ground after going shoulder-to-shoulder with Brown. Gary Caldwell

headed a 68th-minute Larsson free-kick just over his own crossbar,

but the visitors were more than making a game of it as time ran

down. But the winner eventually arrived at the other end when,

after McArthur had embarrassed Brown, he squared for Di Santo to

apply the decisive touch.