Reds back on winning track
Fernando Torres climbed off the bench to score as Liverpool returned to winning ways with a 2-1 success over Wigan at Anfield on Wednesday.
Torres's 11th goal of the season proved decisive as Charles N'Zogbia scored a stoppage time goal for Wigan after David Ngog had given Rafa Benitez's side an early lead. It ensured Liverpool's tribute to former manager and club legend Bill Shankly ended on a winning note.
Shankly took charge of his first game at Anfield on 19 December 1959 and the club paid tribute to him by inviting players who served under the three-times title winning manager. This fixture had generated as much interest in Spain as it had in England as it pitted Spaniards Benitez and Martinez against one another in the dug out.
Martinez, who at 36 is the youngest manager in the Premier League, has made a solid start in his first six months in charge of Wigan. He was looking to add Liverpool to an impressive list of scalps which includes Chelsea and Aston Villa.
Yet Wigan's defensive record away from home is one of the worst in the league, Martinez's side conceding 15 times in the previous three matches on the road. And it was not long before Chris Kirkland had more backache fishing the ball out of his net. The former Liverpool keeper will feel he should have done better as Ngog beat him to Fabio Aurelio's curling cross into the area in the 10th minute, the 20-year-old nodding home his sixth of the campaign.
But Liverpool's shaky defence almost gifted the visitors an instant equaliser. Shankly would have turned in his grave at the amount of space and time Paul Scharner, who was totally unmarked, was allowed after N'Zogbia's excellent centre. Fortunately for the hosts, Scharner failed to seriously test Jose Reina in front of the Kop as the Austrian international headed straight into the Spanish keeper's arms.
With Sunday's events still fresh in the mind of the Anfield faithful - when Liverpool capitulated after taking the lead - fans were unable to relax despite Ngog's goal. Kuyt forced an excellent save from Kirkland minutes after play was held up to allow the Wigan keeper treatment after colliding with team-mate Emmerson Boyce.
The hosts started the second half as brightly as they finished the first as they laid siege to Wigan's goal. But a combination of poor finishing a good goalkeeping frustrated the hosts. Soon after Kirkland had again denied Kuyt with a flying stop in the 50th minute in front of the Kop, Benitez sent on Torres for the final half an hour.
There was surprise that the Spanish forward, who has just returned from injury, had not started yet Ngog's goal justified Benitez's decision to start the youngster ahead of Torres. Yet it was Wigan who were starting to impose themselves as the game entered the final quarter.
Substitute Jason Scotland should have equalised in the 75th minute but instead hit the bar from close range after a mistake by Reina. It was to prove a costly miss for the visitors as moments later, Torres showed his lethal finishing ability.
Fifteen minutes after being introduced to the action, Torres raced on to a long punt forward before rounding Kirkland. After seeing his initial effort blocked by Titus Bramble, he made no mistake with his second as he virtually walked the ball into the net.
Italian international Alberto Aquilani was introduced to the action for the final 10 minutes yet it was Wigan who finished strongly as N'Zogbia scored a stoppage time equaliser.