WIGAN 0-1 LIVERPOOL
FA BARCLAYS PREMIERSHIP
Saturday 11th February 2006 (12:45) at The JJB Stadium
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is still waiting for one of his forwards to find the net in the Barclays Premiership in 2006 after Sami Hyypia helped the Reds return to winning ways.
Robbie Fowler may have started for the first time after his return to Anfield last month, but it was centre-back Hyypia who grabbed the only goal of a dull affair on the half hour.
For Carling Cup finalists Wigan, after coming from behind in their last two matches to grab a point, there was no hat-trick for a team devoid of forwards.
Manager Paul Jewell had demanded ahead of the game his players "get in the faces" of Liverpool in an attempt to redeem themselves following a pitiful 3-0 defeat at Anfield in early December.
But that was never going to be the case with a makeshift attack of centre-back Paul Scharner operating behind versatile Swede Andreas Johansson.
Jewell was without the suspended Jason Roberts, the injured David Connolly and Lee McCulloch, and the ineligible Neil Mellor due to his loan arrangement from Liverpool.
There was also no Henri Camara as the Senegal forward had failed to return from African Nations Cup duty, despite the club's best efforts.
It led to Jewell effectively playing four centre-backs with Scharner up front, skipper Arjan de Zeeuw and former Liverpool star Stephane Henchoz at the heart of the defence and Matt Jackson at right-back in the absence of suspended Pascal Chimbonda.
Inevitably, it led to a chanceless opening half from Wigan, but also a fairly sterile display from Liverpool who were looking to bounce back after successive defeats to Chelsea and Charlton.
Despite Fowler's return, there was limited invention and movement, and just one chance for the Anfield legend prior to the visitors opening the scoring on the half hour.
Fowler had one cushioned header comfortably saved by Mike Pollitt, who then should have done better in reacting to Hyypia's rare strike.
With Fernando Morientes receiving treatment on the sidelines after a clumsy tackle from Henchoz that led to a caution, there appeared little danger for Wigan after seemingly clearing their lines.
But a hopeful punt from Jamie Carragher found one of just two Red shirts left remaining in the area, Hyypia scuffing a weak shot past Pollitt from 12 yards.
Pollitt redeemed himself with a point-blank save to deny Morientes on the stroke of half-time when it should have been 2-0 after Fowler had laid the ball on a plate.
But whatever Jewell put in his players' half-time cup of tea clearly had a galvanising effect as the Latics emerged a team possessed after the interval.
Johansson first forced a full-stretch tip-over from Jerzy Dudek in the 49th minute, before the Poland international was then smartly down to prevent Hyypia from scoring at both ends after he deflected a low Jackson cross into the near post.
In between, Pollitt denied Gerrard's left-foot drive after a fine cross from Fowler, who was replaced in the 66th minute.
Benitez brought on Jan Kromkamp in an attempt to hold onto the slender lead at that stage.
The home side had taken control with De Zeeuw twice going close with headers following inch-perfect crosses from Reto Ziegler.
But that was as good as it got for Wigan as they ran out of ideas and steam, despite a distinctly below-average display from Liverpool.
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|Match Report filed: 11 February 2006|