Chelsea 1 Wigan Athletic 0

Mohamed Diame gets stuck in at the Bridge
Mohamed Diame gets stuck in at the Bridge

A CONTROVERSIAL close-range strike from Florent Malouda cancelled out a brave Latics performance at Stamford Bridge.

The Frenchman struck from six yards after it appeared that substitute Fernando Torres had impeded Latics goalkeeper and man of the match Ali Al Habsi.

Wigan made just one change from the clash with Tottenham last week with Victor Moses dropping to the bench for Mohamed Diame.

Torres had been dropped for his lack of goals and despite being handed plenty of chances, his drought continued.

Chelsea immediately got stuck into Latics with Ramires scuffing a close-range effort within the first 40 seconds. Al Habsi was then called into action twice inside the next 10 minutes. First from Didier Drogba’s free-kick before Malouda’s effort inside the area forced a fine save.

But Wigan got a grip of the game and, for the remainder of the half looked relatively comfortable, winning a good number of free-kicks in the middle of the park and having some decent efforts on goal.

They could easily have had the lead 12 minutes in, when N’Zogbia, who was through on goal, was ruled offside. Replays suggested he was level.

Latics looked confident though and Chelsea looked weary; their backline, without the rested John Terry, was stretched by their determined visitors.

Mohamed Diame fired wide before Rodallega got the better of David Luiz to get himself into the box. The Colombian perhaps waited that vital second too long to shoot but won a corner for his side.

Chelsea were nowhere near as fluent as they can be at Stamford Bridge and Latics could smell an upset.

James McCarthy went close in the 32nd minute when his shot from the edge of the box narrowly drifted wide. Some rash challenges were flying about too with Tom Cleverley and the never shy Luiz both luckily escaping yellow cards.

The only booking of the half came when Howard Webb answered the crowd’s moans for time-wasting, with Emmerson Boyce seeing yellow for taking too long over a throw-in.

Chelsea did have one last chance before the break when a long ball from Petr Cech was flicked on by Drogba, putting Malouda right in on goal inside 12 yards.

But Al Habsi once again produced a superb point-blank save to send the sides in goalless.

Chelsea looked more like their dominant selves in the second half. After a smart move, Ashley Cole fed the ball to Lampard whose strike just drifted wide before Drogba’s rocket of a free-kick was superbly tipped over by Al Habsi.

A re-jig of striking options for both sides saw Conor Sammon and ex-Chelsea man Franco Di Santo enter the fray for Latics, replacing N’Zogbia and Rodallega after Torres had come on for the quiet Nicholas Anelka for the home side.

The departing Latics duo both showed their frustration at being substituted.

Torres, who was on target at the DW Stadium for Liverpool earlier this year, was desperate to score his first Chelsea goal and within five minutes of coming on, he nearly did. Twisting his way through the Latics defence, his first effort of the afternoon was well-saved.

But Chelsea kept coming and took their controversial lead in the 67th minute.

A goalmouth scramble ensued after Drogba’s corner when Torres jumped to head home and appeared to use his arm to impede Al Habsi.

Latics failed to clear their lines and Malouda fired home.

Torres had numerous other opportunities to break his duck but a mixture of great defending from Wigan and inept finishing from him left the Spaniard with a sour taste in his mouth.

First, he failed to control a long ball when through on goal before sending another shot wide and then a well-timed tackle from Boyce denied him again.

Latics tried to catch Chelsea on the break but they struggled to get through a defence which had improved from the first half.

Di Santo had a decent chance for Latics but his header wasn’t strong enough to beat Cech.

Chelsea still looked dangerous though as Drogba, who had menaced the Latics backline all afternoon with his strength, continued to create chances.

It was that man Torres again who failed to score the most simple of chances when half-time substitute Yossi Benayoun put him one-on-one eight yards out. It would be easy to heap more criticism upon him but it was another quite terrific save from Al Habsi which ensured he would go 12 hours without a goal in a blue shirt.

Latics did have a few chances in the second half, mainly on the counter-attack.

Their best chance fell to sub Victor Moses who pounced on a loose ball in the area but couldn’t hit the target.

In the final minutes, Maynor Figueroa picked up his 10th booking of the season, meaning he will miss the games against Blackpool and Sunderland.

Cleverley had Latics’ last chance of the game but his effort was well-saved by Cech.

On the balance of play, it was probably a fair result but in terms of the laws of the game, Latics will certainly feel robbed of a point.