Wigan Athletic 1 Spurs 2

Luka Modric battles for the ball with Ronnie Stam
Luka Modric battles for the ball with Ronnie Stam

A ROUSING second-half fightback wasn’t quite enough as Latics slumped to a fourth defeat in the space of a fortnight against the in-form Londoners.

Latics paid the penalty for an awful opening period, going behind with barely two minutes on the clock to Rafael van der Vaart’s snapshot, and being very fortunate to only trail 2-0 at the break after Gareth Bale doubled the Spurs lead.

Momo Diame’s goal at the start of the second half gave Wigan renewed hope and, despite the sending-off of Steve Gohouri just after the hour mark for a second bookable offence, the home side threw everything at their opponents - only to come up just short.

No team took more points off Spurs last year than Latics, but right from the outset the visitors were first to every ball and winning every 50/50 challenge.

Inside the opening minute, Kyle Walker found himself free down the Spurs right and crossed into the danger area.

Gary Caldwell made a hash of clearance, and the skipper was relieved to see James McCarthy clear the ball with a couple of attackers lurking.

The warning was not heeded, however, and Spurs took the lead a minute later.

A horrible mistake from Maynor Figueroa allowed Emmanuel Adebayor to break, and the Togo striker looked up and saw Van der Vaart free to his right.

With the defence stretched, the Dutchman’s finish was clinical, and the Londoners had the perfect start.

It was almost 2-0 on five minutes, Walker again getting down the right and into a good position, and his cutback was lashed only inches over the bar by Adebayor.

Wigan threatened for the first time on 12 minutes when Victor Moses was blocked by Benoit Assou-Ekotto on the edge of the penalty area, but the free kick from Jordi Gomez was clawed away by Brad Friedel.

Walker was finding himself in acres of space down the right every time his side had the ball, and the young England man drifted forward into the box and saw a header, from a Bale cross, fly only just wide of Ali Al Habsi’s goal.

Midway through the half, another Walker cross caused more problems in the home defence, Caldwell having to concede a corner to avert the danger.

The respite was only temporary, though, with Luka Modric’s corner being headed home in emphatic style from close range by Bale.

There was almost a carbon copy of the second goal within a minute, this time the ball flying over Al Habsi’s crossbar with the defence looking at each other and pointing fingers.

Al Habsi then made a fine save to deny Bale, the big goalkeeper repeating the trick to prevent Adebayor moments later as half-time approached.

Although Walker was seeing more of the ball on the right-hand side, Bale was also a constant menace down the left, the Welshman causing Gohouri all kinds of trouble with his pace.

The Wigan man deservedly had his name taken towards the end of the half after one cynical lunge on Bale as the Welshman launched a breakawy from deep inside his own half.

And Gohouri, making his first appearance of the season, was taken out of the firing line in a half-time reshuffle, the Ivorian switching to centre -back to accommodate the arrival of Ronnie Stam, with Figueroa moving to left-back, Patrick van Aanholt to midfield and Gomez making way.

As well as giving the crowd a timely boost, the substitution reaped instant dividends with Latics pulling one back within four minutes of the restart.

Diame found himself with his back to goal on the edge of the area, but a bit of great footwork won him a couple of yards and the finish was pinpoint, just inside the far corner with Friedel helpless.

With Latics given renewed hope, Spurs almost restored their two-goal advantage a minute later, when Adebayor chased a long ball forward from the back, and his shot produced a great save from Al Habsi on the near post.

Adebayor was then denied by a magnificent challenge from Figueroa when he was in the act of shooting, before Latics - at this stage on top - shot themselves in the foot and gave themselves a mountain to climb.

With almost half an hour remaining, Gohouri went in late on Bale down the left-hand channel and picked up his second yellow, his face saying it all as he trudged off in utter desolation.

Bale picked himself up and teed up Van der Vaart for what would have been the clincher, only for the ball to fly the wrong wide of the upright, before Roberto Martinez played his final hand by throwing on Conor Sammon and James McArthur for Franco di Santo and Ben Watson.

Sammon’s first act saw him cautioned for a trip on Scott Parker, the former West Ham man ensuring the referee’s notebook came out by flinging a loose piece of turf into the air in anger.

Younes Kaboul almost sealed the points with five minutes left, when his free-kick took a deflection off the Wigan wall and smashed against the crossbar and away to safety.

Despite being a man down, Latics were giving as good as they were getting in the closing stages, and were continuing to create some real chances.

A lung-busting run from McArthur had the Spurs backline retreating but, with Stam making a fine overlapping run, the final pass from the Scot was poor and the chance had gone.

McArthur almost made immediate amends, picking up a bouncing ball just inside Tottenham territory and swinging his left foot at it for a real up and under with Fridel way off his line.

As the ball arrowed goalwards, Friedel was panicking for a moment until he managed to regain his bearings and catch the ball deep inside his six-yard box, and Wigan’s hopes of an unlikely point were ended.

Latics: Al Habsi 8; Gohouri 5, Caldwell 7, Figueroa 6, Van Aanholt 7; Moses 8, McCarthy 7, Watson 6, Diame 8, Gomez 6; Di Santo 6. Subs: Kirkland, Stam (for Gomez, 46) 7, McArthur (for Watson, 74), Jones, Crusat, Maloney, Sammon (for Di Santo, 74).

Spurs: Friedel; Walker, Kaboul, King, Assou-Ekotto; Modric, Parker, Sandro, Bale; Van der Vaart, Adebayor. Subs: Cudicini, Dos Santos (for Van der Vaart, 77), Bassong, Corluka, Livermore (for Sandro, 90), Townsend, Carroll.

Star Man: Momo Diame – Kept Latics going forward and scored a great goal with some nifty footwork.

Shots on target: WA4 TH7

Shots off target: WA1 TH7

Corners: WA1 TH9

In the book:

Latics: Yellow: Gohouri, McCarthy, Sammon. Red: Gohouri.

Spurs: Yellow: Adebayor. Red: None.

Attendance: 18,788

Referee: Jon Moss (West Yorkshire)

Martinez’s verdict: “The two goals we conceded were soft but I couldn’t have been prouder of the second-half performance”

Redknapp’s verdict: “Our goalkeeper didn’t have too much to do, but it was still too close for comfort at the end”

Paul Kendrick’s verdict: Latics paid the penalty for a lack-lustre first half. Their second-half display was much better, but they’d left themselves too much to do.