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.