Liverpool succumbed to a second successive defeat against relegation threatened opposition as they lost 2-1at home to Wigan Athletic.
The home side dominated the early possession but lacked ay quality or subtlety with their attacking play and Wigan made them pay when Shaun Maloney stroked home a penalty.Liverpool levelled after the break through Luis Suarez and the Uruguayan thought he had scored a second minutes later before it was correctly chalked off for handball, the striker being cautioned for the offence.
Defensive failures, which were much the downfall of Liverpool against QPR in midweek, again caused their downfall as Gary Caldwell struck the winner with a third of the game remaining.The defeat, Liverpool’s eight of the season and fifth in their last six league matches, leaves them perilously close to mid-table and 13 points away from playing Champions League football next season.
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish blamed their flat showing on tiredness and a bout of injuries that have struck the club.
“I think the toll of three games in six days took the edge off them a little bit,” he said. "We are not going through the best run of having players available to us.
“But, if we do have designs on stepping forward, we need to learn how to manage three games in six days. If that is the schedule, we have to live with it and we have to have a stronger squad to be able to handle it.”
Despite Liverpool controlling much of the early possession it was Wigan that created the first opportunity. Victor Moses swept in from the right only to see his shot blocked by Martin Skrtel. Stewart Downing struck a shot wide midway through the half before Wigan were awarded a penalty for a clear high challenge by Skrtel on Moses on the half hour mark. Maloney stepped up and tucked home his first goal for the club.
Liverpool responded well but Ali Al Habsi kept them at bay. Luis Suarez curled a long range shot and Steven Gerrard forced through the Wigan defence only to see his deflected shot tipped over the bar. They equalised soon after the second half started as Gerrard squared a cross for Suarez to place a neat finish into the far corner. The Uruguayan thought he had his second minutes later, only for his poachers attempt to be ruled out by referee Lee Mason for a clear handball.
Wigan came back at Liverpool and forced a free-kick in a dangerous area on the left wing when John Flanagan needlessly fouled. The home side’s defence failed to clear the corner and the ball fell to Gary Caldwell in space in the area. He calmly cut inside the sliding Andy Carroll to finish like a striker through the legs of Pepe Reina to put his side ahead once again.
Liverpool struggled to find their free-flowing rhythm and frequently gave the ball back to their opposition without threatening. The abject performance by his players may be a bigger worry for Dalglish than the singular result as his players lacked creativity and chose to lump long balls forward to Carroll in an attempt to break through. A ploy which failed significantly.
Credit must be given to Wigan for a performance of quality which defied their lowly league position. Their ability to frustrate their opponents by keeping the ball was impressive and paid refuge to the work Roberto Martinez has done.
It feels certainly now Liverpool have played a larger role in the league’s relegation battle this season than the title battle for which their supporters ultimately crave.