Premier League – Ten-man Wigan hold Arsenal
Goals from Andrei Arshavin and Nicklas Bendtner at the end of the first half put Arsenal in pole position following Ben Watson‘s early penalty, and Roberto Martinez’s side looked doomed to defeat when, in the 78th minute, Charles N’Zogbia was sent off for headbutting Jack Wilshere with his side already 2-1 down.
But an own-goal from Sebastien Squillaci two minutes later gave the Latics a share of the points, denying Arsenal the chance to move level on points with title rivals Manchester United and Manchester City. The Gunners remain third, while Wigan leapfrog Fulham and Birmingham City into 16th position.
Wigan had not lost in their previous five matches at the DW Stadium, and throughout much of the first half it seemed that run would continue as they outfought and outplayed their more illustrious opponents.
The warning signs were there for the Gunners when N’Zogbia skinned Emmanuel Eboue in just the second minute, and they were fortunate not to be a goal down just moments later when Hugo Rodallega narrowly failed to connect with Tom Cleverley’s inviting cross.
N’Zogbia then forced a low save from Lukasz Fabianski with a well-struck shot from distance, before Rodallega earned his side the penalty that would give them the lead.
The Colombian twisted and turned his way past Laurent Koscielny, and went down as the latter made a clumsy challenge right on the margin of the penalty area. Referee Lee Probert deemed that the tackle had taken place inside the box, and duly pointed to the spot. Fabianski guessed correctly, but could do nothing about Watson’s penalty, which was thumped just inside the post.
The home fans were out of their seats screaming for a second penalty straight afterwards as Fabianski clattered into Rodallega in the area, but this time their appeals were waved away.
Ali Al Habsi then saved smartly from Tomas Rosicky, before Arsene Wenger was forced into a substitution on the half hour mark, with Wilshere replacing the injured Abou Diaby. Almost immediately Arsenal stepped up a gear, with Rosicky and Wilshere forming a midfield partnership that Wigan struggled to come to terms with.
The visitors drew level five minutes before half-time thanks to a superb volley from Arshavin: Al Habsi saved smartly from Bendtner, though Arshavin reacted immediately to the rebound, pulling off an acrobatic volley when it looked like the ball would elude him.
Arshavin turned provider two minutes later, playing in Bendtner, who bundled his way through the challenges of Alcaraz and Caldwell before slotting low past Al Habsi.
Wigan regained their composure at the start of the second half, though were fortunate to see a Marouane Chamakh header whistle millimetres past an unguarded near post from Arshavin’s corner on the hour mark.
N’Zogbia’s strong and direct running seemed Wigan’s most likely source of an equaliser, which is why when just moments after drawing a fine save from Fabianski, his dismissal with the clock ticking down seemed to spell the end of Wigan’s hopes.
There was one final twist in the tale, however, with Wigan exposing Arsenal’s longstanding frailty from set pieces. Watson swung a corner deep to Rodallega at the far post, he headed back across goal, and Squillaci, who had allowed Caldwell to get the wrong side of him, could only glance the ball into the back of his own net.
Wenger immediately sent on Theo Walcott and Samir Nasri to try and find an immediate reply, and they perhaps should have had a penalty in the 89th minute as a free-kick from Nasri struck James McArthur‘s arm in the area, though the appeals were waved away, and Wigan clung on for a precious point.