Di Santo redeems himself with stunning equaliser

Posted by Tony Brown

Ian Walton/Getty ImagesWigan's Franco Di Santo celebrates his equalising goal in the 71st minute. It was his first score since October

It was a game of two halves for Franco Di Santo. Before Saturday's 1-1 draw at Fulham, the Argentinian had not scored since the beginning of October. The way he played in the first half on Saturday reflected as much. In the first five minutes he somehow managed not to hit the net from two yards out, the ball trickling from his boot to the goalkeeper following a lovely move involving James McCarthy and Shaun Maloney.

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Even Di Santo's usually excellent approach play wasn't quite up to his usual standards as frustration set in. Shortly before half-time, a neat backheel from James McArthur led to Emmerson Boyce putting over a great cross that a more accomplished Premier League striker would have poached - Di Santo put it over.

Wigan manager Roberto Martinez had gone into it with a conservative line-up. He packed the centre of midfield with David Jones, McArthur and McCarthy, while Maloney was employed in the second striker role. Fulham had strangely started without a recognised holding player to compete for midfield possession.

After Fulham took the lead in the 22nd minute with a spectacular goal from Giorgos Karagounis, it looked as if Wigan had a hill to climb and their lack of cutting edge was cause for concern. Neat approach play is to no avail without clinical finishing.

As the second half progressed the need for another forward became even more apparent. However, in the 66th minute Jordi Gomez was brought on for Jones. Wigan reverted to a straight back four, with Gomez and Jean Beausejour pushed into wide midfield positions. Although the move resulted in Wigan having two players in wide positions who do not have the speed to get past opposing full-backs, the change of shape galvanised their play.

The chief beneficiary was Maloney, who dropped deeper into the playmaker role, and dictated Latics' attacking play from that moment on. Di Santo and his teammates improved and the revived Argentinian went near with a quick-fire volley before scoring a gem of an equaliser in the 71st minute. His confidence restored, he went close to a winner minutes later.

After a horrible hamstring injury to Ivan Ramis in the closing minutes, Wigan fell apart and it was only an amazing goal-line clearance from Maynor Figueroa that stopped them from losing a match they had deserved to win.

The Good

A valuable point gained at a ground where Latics struggled so much in the past. The defence was disciplined and alert. Wigan played skilful football and created chances. The re-emergence of Di Santo from the doldrums bodes well in the absence of the accomplished Arouna Kone. Wigan played with spirit and the result will help boost morale following a poor run of results.

The Bad

Wigan’s cruel luck continues with a bad ligament injury to Ramis, who had done so much to neutralise the threat of Dimitar Berbatov. Wigan had the better share of clear scoring opportunities and could have brought home three points rather than one.

Player Ratings

Ali Al Habsi: 6 - a quiet afternoon.

Emmerson Boyce: 7 - very solid in defence, read the game well, using his considerable experience.

Ivan Ramis: 7 - played the major part in keeping Berbatov at bay. Solid in defence and possibly a big loss for the rest of the season after being stretchered off. Let’s hope not.

Gary Caldwell: 8 - marshalled his defence, excellent in positioning and tackling.

Maynor Figueroa: 7.5 - saved two points with a stunning clearance. Disciplined and solid in defence.

Jean Beausejour: 6 - gradually regaining his touch. Worked hard in defence and put in some nice crosses.

James McCarthy: 7 - consistent as ever. Looked classy.

James McArthur: 6 - worked hard, tackled well and put through some nice passes.

David Jones: 6 - hard-working, but wish his passing would be more incisive.

Shaun Maloney: 7 - much more comfortable in the playmaker role. At the heart of the second-half revival.

Franco Di Santo: 6 - good to see him back on form in the last half hour.


Jordi Gomez: played out of position on the right and had little input as a result.

Ronnie Stam: came in very late, but his lapse could have led to a defeat in added time.

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