Wigan cause upset at Villa Park
Roberto Martinez made a dream start to life as a Barclays Premier League manager as his Wigan Athletic side ran out convincing winners over Aston Villa at Villa Park. Hugo Rodallega's stunning strike and a second-half effort by Jason Koumas secured the points for the visitors, who extended their unbeaten run in this fixture to five league matches.
The margin of victory could have been even greater, Rodallega seeing an effort cleared off the line and Charles N'Zogbia hitting the post. But as it was, there was much to displease the Villa fans in the 35,578-strong crowd, who showed their displeasure with a chorus of boos at the full-time whistle.
Villa manager Martin O'Neill handed full debuts to new signings Fabian Delph and Habib Beye, while Stiliyan Petrov was passed fit to start after recovering from a dislocated shoulder. Villa went with Emile Heskey and Gabriel Agbonlahor up front. But John Carew was unable to take his place on the bench after injuring his foot in the warm-up, Nathan Delfouneso instead getting drafted in. Martinez also handed full debuts to two new recruits, Honduran midfielder Hendry Thomas and Jordi Gomez. Jason Scotland was on the bench.
Villa immediately looked to attack, James Milner turning his marker on the edge of the box and delivering a dangerous ball that was cleared to safety. Nineteen-year-old Delph gave a demonstration of his burgeoning talent after 12 minutes, his controlled left-footed half-volley flying just over after good work again by Young. But it was the visitors who had the best chance of a busy opening to the match, Gomez again pulling the strings with a lay-off for N'Zogbia, whose low shot was brushed on to the post by Brad Friedel.
Villa hit back almost immediately as Milner tried his luck from 22 yards with a drilled effort that Kirkland did well to parry, while moments later at the other end of the pitch, Rodallega saw a goalbound effort blocked. Two corners followed, and from the second Rodallega's header was cleared off the line by Milner, with Friedel beaten. Wigan's superiority in midfield was beginning to tell on Villa's players, who retreated into their shells and allowed the Latics to dominate possession.
Wigan's threat going forward was converted into the lead in stunning fashion after 30 minutes, Villa full-back Nicky Shorey's misplaced header sitting up perfectly for Rodallega who dispatched a superb, looping 20-yard finish over Friedel and into the top-left corner. Villa almost got on level terms in the 39th minute when Young underlined his international class with a delightful 25-yard free-kick that brought an equally eye-catching one-handed save from the alert Kirkland.
Villa's defensive frailties returned moments later, however, as Curtis Davies let the ball drop over his head to give Rodallega a clear shot on goal. But Friedel saved with his feet to ensure it was only 1-0 at the break.
Seven minutes into the second period, Petrov hung up an inviting cross for Carlos Cuellar who should have done better than head wide. Moments later Agbonlahor had the chance to level in a goalmouth scramble, but Titus Bramble hacked to safety.
Koumas slots home
Disgruntlement in the stands increased after 55 minutes when the hosts fell further behind. N'Zogbia was the creator of the goal, his probing run from the middle of the park culminating in a precise lay-off for the onrushing Koumas, who kept his head to finish low through Friedel's leg from the left side of the area.
Delph's solid if unspectacular Villa debut came to an end after 15 minutes of the second period as Steve Sidwell replaced him. The former Reading man was soon in the thick of the action, his heavy challenge on N'Zogbia perhaps giving some hint of the job he had been asked to do by O'Neill in a bid to shore up Villa's midfield.
Villa pushed for the breakthrough in what time remained, Young the chief tormentor going forward, but failing to find a killer ball in the final third. Confirmation it was not to be Villa's day arrived two minutes from the end when Heskey beat Kirkland to a loose ball and squared for Young to take aim at an open goal, only for the winger's goalbound effort to be brilliantly deflected to safety by the Bramble.