Ace Ali

Wigan Athletic v Liverpool: Ali Al Habsi after the game
Wigan Athletic v Liverpool: Ali Al Habsi after the game

ROBERTO Martinez hailed Ali Al Habsi’s ‘special character’ after the goalkeeper’s third penalty save of the campaign secured a priceless point against Liverpool.

Latics followed up their deserved draw against Chelsea with another fighting display to make it three games unbeaten.

And while defensive trio Antolin Alcaraz, Gary Caldwell and Maynor Figueroa were again excellent, Al Habsi stole the headlines by thwarting Charlie Adam after Caldwell had handled in the box at the start of the second half.

“It would be very unfair to single anyone out after a performance like that, because the whole team were close to their best,” Martinez told the Evening Post.

“But sometimes in the cauldron of battle you need your goalkeeper to stand strong, and I thought Ali did just that.

“He has been a special character for us ever since he’s been here, and he can be extremely proud of his efforts. He does all the right things on and off the field, and got the rewards for that with the penalty save.

“That said, you don’t get a result against a side as good as Liverpool without your entire team playing well, and we showed our quality across the board.”

The result was not enough to take Latics out of the Christmas bottom three, but it makes it nine points from the last six matches since their eight-game losing sequence was broken.

“A point is a point, and they’re all important,” Martinez added.

“You look back to the Blackburn game and you see the two points we were robbed of would put us into a completely different position.

“I never get too affected by the league position.

“I just feel our season started properly when we went to Sunderland and won, and we need to carry on with the good work. It was another strong performance and one that we all enjoyed.

“We played against a very good opposition who played really, really well, and that made the point even sweeter.

“We caused ourselves unnecessary problems for the first 50 minutes, and allowed Liverpool to build up a lot of momentum.

“But we finished the game really well and we created some very good chances of our own.”

Back-to-back draws against Chelsea and Liverpool have boosted confidence levels ahead of the Boxing Day trip to Manchester United, but the Spaniard is not looking too far down the line just yet.

“Let’s enjoy this one for a bit before we start to think about Manchester United,” he said.

“We should be proud of two magnificent performances against Chelsea and now Liverpool, and it will allow us to enjoy Christmas Day with a happy feeling.”