Everton 2 – 1 Wigan
By Sam Lyon
Leighton Baines shattered former club Wigan with an injury-time penalty to earn Everton their first victory of the new Premier League campaign.
The left-back stepped up to smash home after substitute Jo had been felled by Emmerson Boyce as Everton made up for what had been a profligate display.
Wigan looked on course for a smash-and-grab win when Paul Sharner headed in.
But Louis Saha nodded in moments after Wigan’s Jordi Gomez had hit the post, and Baines then snatched a late winner.
It was a dramatic finale to a match that only really came to life in the final half hour, but one that enabled Toffees boss David Moyes to go home happy despite a host of missed chances by his side.
In fact, those missed chances almost cost Everton dear when, pushing for a late winner at 1-1, they were caught napping at the back with the Latics counter-attacking five-on-two.
Scott Sinclair chose to go it alone instead of pass, though, with his shot easily bloked, and only moments later Boyce took Jo down from behind in the box and Everton were able to breathe a sigh of relief.
The result made it three league defeats on the bounce for Wigan, whose opening-day win over Aston Villa must seem like a lifetime ago.
But for Everton it meant they were able to kick off the post-Joleon Lescott era with a win – and replacement Sylvain Distin could hardly have looked more comfortable on debut.
Wigan, workmanlike and determined, were toothless in attack for large parts of the game, though the Toffees themselves could hardly be considered a tour de force up front until late in the game.
In Tim Cahill and Steven Pienaar, though, the hosts did at least boast two players capable of invention and verve, and Wigan struggled to keep the pair quiet for much of the first half.
The former forced an early save from Wigan keeper Mike Pollitt, before his slide-rule pass across the box looked to have set up a golden chance for Louis Saha, only for the keeper to stand tall and beat his effort away well.
Pienaar also forced Pollitt into action with a 20-yard snap-shot, though Jack Rodwell forced the finest save of them all with a firm half-volley from the edge of the area that was tipped over.
However, in truth the opening half was a forgettable affair, notable from Wigan’s point of view largely for the four bookings their hassle-and-harry approach earned.
That all changed just before the hour mark, though, when Wigan took the lead against the run of play.
Sharner was the man to break the deadlock, heading in Charles N’Zogbia’s cross at the back-post with Tim Howard stranded after Mario Melchiot had fed N’Zogbia down the right.
Gomez should have made it two moments later when he stroked Melchiot’s pinpoint pass onto the post from 12 yards out – and that miss was duly punished when Saha rose highest to meet Baines’s corner and draw Everton level just past the hour mark.
Everton were once again in the ascendancy, but first Cahill headed wide unmarked 10 yards out from Tony Hibbert’s delicious cross, and then Jo fired straight at Pollitt after being put through by Marouane Fellaini, with Rodwell blazing the rebound well over.
It looked like costing Everton dear – especially when Sinclair looked well set to score a late Wigan winner – but Boyce afforded Baines the opportunity to save the day with his clumsy late tackle as the Toffees climbed off the bottom of the table with a precious win.