Battling Latics earn point
Aston Villa were held to a goalless home draw thanks to a battling defensive display by Wigan.
Last Updated: 31/01/09 5:42pm
Aston Villa were held to a goalless draw at home thanks to a battling defensive display by Wigan on Saturday.
There were few chances in the first half, although Villa goalkeeper Brad Friedel had to make a great one-handed save to deny Maynor Figueroa in stoppage time.
Villa pressed hard for the win in the second period and Zat Knight's downward header hit Chris Kirkland's left post.
Figueroa then had to clear a Gabriel Agbonlahor header off the line in an amazing goalmouth scramble, before Paul Scharner made two goalline clearances in quick succession from John Carew and Luke Young as Wigan held on for a valuable point.
The Latics, who have agreed a fee with Newcastle for defender Charles N'Zogbia, had showed their mettle in holding Liverpool in midweek.
And they again proved their worth, often having to resort to desperate last-ditch defending during the second half when they were penned back for lengthy periods.
But their back four were prepared to put their bodies on the line with Figueroa outstanding.
Villa, for whom Gareth Barry and Stiliyan Petrov pulled the strings in midfield, are still unbeaten in 12 league games, from which they have collected 28 points.
But this was a golden opportunity to climb above Liverpool and Chelsea before they meet on Sunday and put the pressure on Manchester United at the top.
Before the game, fans from both sides joined in a minute's applause in celebration of former Villa skipper Johnny Dixon, who led the side to the 1957 FA Cup final triumph, and ex-manager and player Vic Crowe after their recent deaths.
Wigan pushed Scharner into a midfield role in a 4-5-1 formation with Mido as the only out-and-out striker.
Villa started brightly and Agbonlahor used his pace to skip past Latics defender Emmerson Boyce and, although his cross went behind Emile Heskey, it dropped into the path of Craig Gardner.
But he opted to attempt a first-time shot when he had time to control the ball and his effort flew well wide.
Villa centre-back Curtis Davies was allowed a free header from a James Milner centre but he could not keep his effort down.
A Barry free-kick glanced off the head of Heskey and drifted wide of the far post as Villa stamped their authority on proceedings.
But after a bright opening, Villa found it more difficult to prise open a Wigan side who often put everyone except Mido behind the ball.
And Villa keeper Friedel did well to block a shot from Wigan winger Daniel de Ridder after a dummy by Mido from a Mario Melchiot pass had set up the opportunity after 28 minutes.
Heskey threatened in the air for the first time after 40 minutes when he got on the end of a deep Barry cross but his header was directed straight at Chris Kirkland.
Friedel then produced an excellent save in first half injury-time to tip over a Figueroa header from a De Ridder cross.
It was De Ridder's last meaningful contribution as he was replaced at the start of the second half by Hugo Rodallega.
Gardner appealed in vain for a penalty after a challenge from Jason Koumas, who appeared to make little contact with the Villa midfielder.
But Villa's protests were more vociferous when a cross from Milner appeared to hit Figueroa's arm as he fell over in the box, but referee Rob Styles waved play on.
Kirkland was well positioned to hold on to a drive from a narrow angle by Agbonlahor as Villa looked to build some momentum.
The home side came close to breaking the deadlock after 55 minutes when Knight's header back across goal from a Barry free-kick struck the post.
Davies became the first player to be yellow-carded after an hour for a rash challenge on Michael Brown.
Figueroa then had to clear an Agbonlahor header off the line in an amazing goalmouth scramble
Soon afterwards, the home side won a free-kick inside the box after Kirkland handled a back pass from Brown and Scharner twice came to the rescue by clearing off the line from both Carew and Young.Figueroa was then on his game again to block a close-range effort from Agbonlahor late on.
|Aston Villa||Team Statistics||Wigan Athletic|
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|8||Shots on Target||3|
|10||Shots off Target||5|