Chelsea leave it late to keep their top four hopes alive against Wigan.

Chelsea leave it late to keep their top four hopes alive against Wigan.
Chelsea leave it late to keep their top four hopes alive against Wigan.

Chelsea needed a win today to close the gap on the top four and seal a precious Champion’s League spot. Wigan needed to leave with something to help them claw their way out of the relegation zone. With these incentives in mind, it should have been all guns blazing by both sides from the start. However the first half was a rather dull affair; Chelsea, without the injured Terry, Lampard and Cole, looked devoid of creativity and forward momentum. Wigan passed the ball well, with Di Santo and Moses looking particularly sharp, but failed to make any real chances.

Gary Cahill had a long range strike pawed over by Wigan keeper Al Habsi and Mata had a close range shot saved after some nifty footwork in the Wigan box but these chances were few and far between. The first half was so dull that the most exciting moment came when a Pigeon perched itself in the Wigan penilty area. When it eventually flew away the fans started chanting “We want our pigeon back!”

Fortunately the second half was more eventful. In the 61st minute Mata took a costless kick that was cleared by the Wigan defence. The ball fell to Meireles who was lurking on the edge of the box. The Portuguese midfielder then clipped the ball back into the area and found Ivanovic who Chelsea ahead. The Wigan players immediately crowded around both the referee and the linesman, insisting the Serbian was offside. Replays showed that they were right to protest, as Ivanovic was about a yard offside, but the officials refused to budge and the goal was given.

Two minutes later Ivanovic was once again at the centre of the action. Chelsea were caught napping and Wigan managed to break on the counter attack. Petr Cech became entangled in a defensive scuffle in his own box and the ball deflected to Di Santo who was looking into an empty net. However his shot was denied when Ivanovic came out of nowhere and made an important defensive block.

Wigan piled on the pressure against an increasingly shaky Chelsea defence. Ten minutes from the end of the game their perseverance paid off when Diame took control of the ball outside the Chelsea box. The Senegalese defender was given too much space on the ball and powered a brilliant strike past Cech, who could only look the ball zip past him. .

As the clock ticked down Wigan looked to have gained a well-earned point but Chelsea struck back in the 90th minute. Drogba chipped a lovely ball to substitute Fernando Torres who volleyed it from an acute angle. The shot hit the post but was bundled over the line by Mata.

It was a cruel end to the game for Wigan who had worked hard through the match and who had conceded their first goal unfairly. However Chelsea won’t be complaining about the nature of the win as they now sit only two points below fourth place Arsenal and three points below third place Tottenham.