VICTOR Moses continued his fine pre-season form with the only goal in an entertaining friendly against Villareal.
The winger’s strike, after great work by Franco di Santo, saw Latics conclude their preparations for the new Premier League campaign with their third win on the spin against a top-quality side who will once again take part in this year’s Champions League.
Moses was once again the pick of the Latics players, but Roberto Martinez [pictured inset] will have been most pleased to report a relatively clean bill of health ahead of the visit of Norwich next Saturday.
Villarreal had fashioned the first chance with only four minutes gone, when slack play in midfield allowed Gerard to advance to the edge of the Wigan box.
The shot was well hit and was arrowing towards the top left-hand corner, only for Ali Al Habsi to claw the ball behind for a corner with a super save.
At the other end, Moses was upended 20 yards from goal for a nailed-on free-kick, and Jordi Gomez’ effort was almost perfection – curling over the wall and dipping only to strike the bar and rebound to safety.
There was a slight worry for Di Santo in the early exchanges when he was grounded by a rather over-zealous challenge, but the Argentine was able to continue.
Villarreal seemed content to allow Wigan plenty of possession and try to hit them on the break, and they were asking questions of the home defence.
It took a good clearing header from Gary Caldwell to clear the ball away from Marco Ruben, while Nilmar played a fine one-two with Ruben moments later and stabbed in a shot that Al Habsi touched round the post.
Ruben then profited from an error from Maynor Figueroa to test Al Habsi, before Latics almost grabbed the opener on 15 minutes.
Moses – the undoubted star of pre-season so far – skinned Mano down the left and cut the ball back for James McCarthy, whose volley flashed inches wide of the near post.
It really should have been 1-0 eight minutes later when Ben Watson played in Di Santo, who found himself in acres of space with time to pick his spot.
However, his finish was weak and Diego Lopez was able to make an easy save diving to his left.
Villarreal created a similar chance with 10 minutes of the first half remaining, Marcos Gullon lumping the ball long and finding Nilmar one-on-one with Al Habsi.
But again the finish was hurried and bounced harmlessly wide of the target.
With half-time approaching, Latics pushed forward for one more attack, and managed to break the deadlock through that man Moses.
Momo Diame did well down the left to play in Di Santo, who waited until the perfect moment to split the defence.
And, from 10 yards out, Moses made no mistake with a left-foot drive that beat Lopez all ends up.
With Chris Kirkland a half-time replacement for Al Habsi, Latics started the second stanza just as they’d finished the first – on top – and were claiming a penalty moments after the restart when Gomez seemed to be bundled off the ball inside the box.
After James McArthur had replaced McCarthy, who had taken a slight knock, there was more Moses trickery moments later that required good goalkeeping from Lopez to prevent Latics going two up.
Lopez then kept half-time substitute Conor Sammon out, although the former Kilmarnock striker really should have done much better.
Sammon left the cover for dead and his first touch was decent enough, but instead of taking a second touch he elected to shoot from just inside the area and Lopez made a comfortable save to his right.
The Dubliner had another chance midway through the second period, although he knew little about this one.
A Moses cross was half-ceared by Joan Oriol into the legs of Sammon, and the ricochet flew just over the bar with Lopez stranded.
By now, David Jones and Hendry Thomas had taken over from Diame and Watson, and both showed some good early touches to give Martinez a nudge of their availability for next weekend.
There was also a rare sighting of Ronnie Stam this summer, the Dutchman replacing Emmerson Boyce at right-back.
With 10 minutes remaining, t here was excitement in the crowd when former Manchester United striker Giuseppi Rossi – a reported transfer target for Barcelona this summer – came on for Villarreal.
Rossi came through the Old Trafford ranks with Latics newcomer Jones, who responded to the sight of his old pal entering the fray by creating a swift counter-attack that resulted in Moses having a shot blocked.
Trialist Nouha Dicko was brought on for the last five minutes along with Roman Golobart, but Latics were indebted to the linesman on the far side for keeping them ahead after Ruben smashed a great shot past Kirkland only to turn and see the flag up.