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Thursday, January 3, 2008
Bruce hails Wigan's much-maligned Bramble

Steve Bruce paid tribute to goal hero Titus Bramble as Wigan moved out of the relegation zone with a superb draw against Liverpool at Anfield.

The often-maligned centre-back scored his second goal in two games to give Wigan a brave 1-1 draw to heighten the pressure on Liverpool chief Rafael Benitez.

The result virtually ended Liverpool's faint hopes of mounting a title challenge, and it was watched from the directors' box by a large party of American associates and family members of joint chairmen Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

Benitez admitted to being 'bitterly disappointed' by the result and left the stadium subdued and clearly angry at the performance.

Bruce, who has still to lose a league match to Benitez at either his former club Birmingham or Wigan, was anything but unsmiling after this result.

And it was Bramble that Bruce reserved special praise for.

He said: 'Titus has had some unfair treatment over the last few years, people forget that he is still only a young lad and had been playing centre-half for a top side, so he has not been that bad.

'He has done well for me, he is a good defender who has had far too much unfair stick over the years. That's two in two for him and I could not be more pleased with him.'

'It is Wigan's first point against the big four clubs, so that is very enjoyable.

'When they scored we had to hang in there, it couldn't have come at a worse time, but the longer the game went on the more comfortable we were.

'If we keep producing like that, who knows how far we can go. Since I took over we have played five of the top 10 teams, and we have amassed a few points to get ourselves out of the relegation zone.

'Six weeks ago I thought we were in danger of becoming marooned if we had not started to pick up results, we were just two points ahead of Derby. But we have now forced ourselves out of the bottom three, and we intend to stay out.'

Benitez conceded that the gap between Liverpool and leaders Arsenal is getting increasingly difficult after witnessing his Anfield side throw away victory.

Liverpool were 1-0 ahead thanks to a Fernando Torres goal when they were hit by a late Bramble equaliser.

Manchester City's 2-0 win at Newcastle saw them jump above Liverpool back into fourth spot on a bitterly cold and disappointing night for the Anfield chief.

He said: 'It is really disappointing, it's a another game when we had plenty of possession but needed a little luck too.

'We created chances, but we needed to take them. Wigan defended and used the long ball, it got them their goal, I am really disappointed.

'It is clear that the gap for us now at the top is bigger, but I keep saying we must concentrate on one game and not look at the table and make ourselves nervous.

'If you keep thinking about the points difference you will play with more pressure. We must create chances, score goals and then wait to see what the situation is.

'It is always more difficult playing catch-up, but especially when you know you are creating chances but you cannot score the second goal to kill the game.'

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