Zog helps Latics tame Black Cats
Newcastle old boy Charles N'Zogbia returned to haunt Sunderland as Wigan ended their wait for a Premier League win with a 2-1 away victory. The Frenchman, who scored for the Magpies in a 4-1 victory at the Stadium of Light in 2006, struck with a fine solo effort in first-half injury-time to claim three points for Steve Bruce's Latics for the first time since January 11. It was his first goal for the club and came after midfielder Ben Watson had opened his own account with just 12 minutes gone. Grant Leadbitter had briefly got the home side back on terms with a 41st-minute equaliser, but N'Zogbia's contribution proved decisive on a day when the Black Cats were far from their best in front of a largely disgruntled crowd of 39,266. Wigan boss Steve Bruce will have been delighted with the way in which central defenders Titus Bramble and Emmerson Boyce nullified the threat of Kenwyne Jones and Djibril Cisse, although they were rarely at full-stretch to do so. By contrast, opposite number Ricky Sbragia was left to reflect upon a return of just one point from home games against Tottenham and Saturday's visitors. Still smarting from the win which got away as a result of Robbie Keane's late equaliser, Sunderland ran out determined to make amends against a Wigan outfit without a league win in two months. They had slipped to within just four points of the relegation zone as a result of Blackburn's victory at Fulham in midweek, but their lack of urgency in the opening five minutes would have been a major source of concern to Sbragia. But even more worryingly, the defensive solidity upon which the Black Cats have relied for some time was painfully absent and contributed to their downfall on two occasions. The game was only 12 minutes old when the home rearguard backed away from a high ball as it bounced 25 yards out. Watson, however, needed no second invitation to drill a controlled volley past Marton Fulop for his first goal since completing a Â£2million January move from Crystal Palace. Kirkland did have to pull off a fine double save from Andy Reid's deflected effort and Steed Malbranque's follow-up five minutes later as the Wearsiders responded, although he spent much of the opening 45 minutes picking off wayward crosses with little difficulty. He was finally beaten four minutes before the break when, after Cisse and Jones had helped on Fulop's clearance, Leadbitter stabbed the ball past him. However, the respite was short-lived as the visitors once again demonstrated their ability to open up their opponents. With Jones down in the Wigan box after challenging for a high ball, Paul Scharner flicked on for N'Zogbia, who raced from his own half into the box before beating Fulop with a left-footed shot. Sunderland returned knowing they would have to be much better to rescue the game but made little impression in the early stages of the second half. Boyce had to react smartly with 53 minutes gone to clear Dean Whitehead's near-post cross at the second attempt with Cisse sniffing an opportunity. But the game should have effectively been over three minutes later when N'Zogbia played Scharner in on the left only for Fulop to block with his legs. Sbragia's response was to withdraw wide men Reid and Malbranque and send on Daryl Murphy and Carlos Edwards, but the changes had little effect as the visitors stood firm. Indeed, they would have increased their lead with 17 minutes remaining had Fulop not dived low to his right to keep out Watson's dipping free-kick. Leadbitter saw what he thought was a second equaliser rightly ruled out for offside three minutes later, and Sbragia swiftly played his last card when he withdrew defender Tal Ben Haim and sent on a fourth striker, David Healy. But his side's fortunes were summed up in the dying minutes when Jones lashed a shot wildly off target and Murphy completely missed his kick in front of goal.