ANFIELD ONLINE MATCH REPORT
LIVERPOOL 3-0 WIGAN ATHLETIC
FA BARCLAYS PREMIERSHIP
3 December 2005 (12.45pm) at Anfield
Peter Crouch finally ended his goal drought as Liverpool took their unbeaten record to eight matches, winning their sixth Premiership game on the trot.
Crouch had gone 24 hours without a goal when his 19th-minute on-target shot deflected off Leighton Baines and was helped into the net by Wigan keeper Mike Pollitt.
The England striker celebrated enthusiastically, not knowing that his effort would later go down as a Pollitt own goal.
But Crouch, with his confidence soaring, lobbed home just before the break to make it 2-0 and there were no doubts whatsoever this one was his.
Luis Garcia added a third as Liverpool claimed another morale-boosting victory, but Wigan deserve plenty of credit for never giving up and producing a brave, committed display on their first league visit to Anfield.
The clean sheet made it eight in succession for Liverpool, and for a while at least they are second in the Premiership.
Liverpool gave Harry Kewell only his second start of the season, while Wigan reverted to their best side, the one that lost to Spurs last weekend.
And a club who were Liverpool's little non-league neighbours just 27 years ago, were brimming with confidence in their first league meeting with the European champions.
Jimmy Bullard was constantly industrious in midfield but it was visiting goalkeeper Mike Pollitt who was first into action after Luis Garcia had crossed from the left and seen the ball met first time by Kewell, whose shot was parried to safety by the Wigan 'keeper on four minutes.
Crouch thought his goal famine was over after 19 minutes. His on-target shot from outside the area ballooned up off Baines and dropped over Pollitt's head. The keeper could not stop it dropping into the net despite get a hand to the ball.
The tall striker ran three quarters of the way around the pitch to celebrate, standing in almost relief in front of the Kop.
Crouch might have scored when Pollitt fumbled a shot in the six-yard box right in front of him.
But Wigan were not fazed by all the fuss and continued with their organised, competitive style. A corner from Bullard was headed onto the top of the crossbar by Arjan De Zeeuw and the effort and tireless running of Henri Camara and Jason Roberts gave Liverpool not a second of peace.
Pollitt made an outstanding save by turning wide a fierce Gerrard shot before De Zeeuw limped off to be replaced by Matt Jackson after 35 minutes, the Wigan captain looking to have damaged his ankle as he landed awkwardly after his effort had clipped the crossbar.
Then Crouch struck and this time there was no doubt. It came three minutes from the break when he lobbed home after taking control of a Steve Finnan pass.
Wigan had no intention of rolling over and were at Liverpool's throats from the first second after the break. First Roberts held off Jamie Carragher to force his way into the box, only for Hyypia's desperate tackle saving the day.
From the corner the ball fell to lifelong Liverpool fan Graham Kavanagh, who saw a 20 yarder graze the crossbar.
After 49 minutes Fernando Morientes saw a header clip the woodwork, as Liverpool began to pen Wigan in their own half. The ball swung from wing to wing and the crosses zeroed in towards Crouch. And at the base of all Liverpool's forward movement was Xabi Alonso's astute passing.
But the drive instilled into Wigan by their manager, one-time Liverpool reserve Jewell, meant that they still believed in themselves and Roberts gave Carragher as tough a game as he has had in a long time.
Then Jose Reina made an outstanding save to his left to keep out a fierce low drive from Bullard on the hour.
Riise came on for Kewell after 61 minutes, with Liverpool still coming under pressure. To underline this, striker David Connolly replaced midfielder Damien Francis four minutes later.
Hamann then replaced Alonso to try to give Liverpool greater defensive edge as Wigan continued to battle forward.
Wigan still defiantly came forward, but after 70 minutes Liverpool settled the issue when Luis Garcia netted from close range after Morientes had headed down a corner in the box.
Crouch departed to rapturous applause, Rafa Benitez replacing him with Cisse after 73 minutes, with Josip Skoko taking over from Kavanagh four minutes later for Wigan.
Henchoz was booked for Wigan, and then so was his former central defensive partner at Liverpool Hyypia.
Morientes could have made it four but Pollitt made two fine saves to stop the Spain striker.
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|Match Report filed: 5 December 2005|