Wigan 3 Arsenal 2: Charles N'Zogbia scores late stunner to end Gunners title dreams

19 April 2010 08:53

For a man whose moods can often be measured by his state of undress, you could almost have forgiven Arsene Wenger for stripping naked and running around the DW Stadium in front of his shattered players.

Seven years ago down the road at Bolton, it was the crisp club tie yanked from around his neck that signalled the end of Arsenal's title challenge after they had given up a two-goal lead.

In maddeningly similar circumstances at Wigan, the tell-tale sign was a suit jacket slung angrily towards the away bench when calamity keeper Lukasz Fabianski spilled a corner in the 90th minute and allowed Titus Bramble to head Wigan level. This time, however, it was about to get worse for the Frenchman. Much worse.

Back of the net: N'Zogbia's stunning strike in the 91st minute completed a remarkable comeback for Wigan

Four minutes of added time had just been announced when HugoRodallega slipped a pass infield to Charles N'Zogbia. The Wigan wingertook the ball away from Arsenal's ageing central defenders Sol Campbelland Mikael Silvestre, and sent a wonderful left-foot shot swervinginside Fabianski's right-hand post.

It was a stunning climax to a stunning finale that brought threeWigan goals in the space of 11 minutes and ended any possibility ofArsenal reviving their title bid.

On target: Ben Watson scores the first of Wigan's three goals at the DW Stadium

No wonder Wenger felt the need to throw something. Not since the last millenniumhad he seen one of his teams lose after leading by two goals. And justfour days after that chastening loss to Tottenham in the north Londonderby.

The Wigan fans who had stayed in remarkably good spirits despiteseeing their team heading for defeat, mimicking Wenger's arm movementsen masse every time he appeared off the bench, could hardly believetheir eyes.

They may have seen Chelsea and Liverpool beaten here this season,but this was something else altogether. With West Ham and Hull still toplay, manager Roberto Martinez is perhaps right to urge caution.

Furious: Wenger kicks a bottle in frustration as his side throw away a 2-0 lead

But as wild celebrations and the theme tune from The Great Escapegreeted one of the most remarkable results of any Premier Leagueseason, it certainly felt as if a seven-point cushion will be enough.Wenger, instead of going for the title, spoke about making sure histeam are not pipped by Manchester City or Tottenham for third place.

He said. 'It's the most disappointing defeat of the season. But Inever thought the game was over. We weren't focused or disciplined andwere caught. Perhaps the players felt too much comfort but overall youhave to focus for 90 minutes or you will be punished.'

So who will win the title now, he was asked. Manchester United or Chelsea? 'I don't care,' was the answer.

It was a strange day all round for Wenger. Forced by injuries toplay Fabianski in goal, and Campbell and Silvestre in front of him, hechose to start with 19-year-old Craig Eastmond as a midfield anchor.

It was an unfamiliar Arsenal line-up, one containing more than two Englishmenfor the first time in over five years, but they went ahead four minutesbefore the end of a quiet first half when Theo Walcott took NicklasBendtner's through-ball, slipped Bramble's lunging challenge and heldoff Maynor Figueroa before tucking the ball under Chris Kirkland.

On target: Walcott scored in the 41st minute to give Arsenal the lead

Wigan had already had a strong penalty appeal for Samir Nasri's tugon Ben Watson dismissed when Silvestre extended Arsenal's lead with awell-placed header from Nasri's corner in the 48th minute.

However, the arrival of Victor Moses off the bench energised Wiganand it was his cross into the path of Watson in the 80th minute thatenabled the boyhood Arsenalfan to sidefoot past Fabianski and through the legs of Gael Clichy.

Watson saw his header from N'Zogbia's corner cleared off the line byNasri, but the Frenchman's next delivery moments later led to theturning point of the game.

Gunning for the title: Walcott celebrates with his team-mates after his first-half strike

Fabianski came out to claim the corner but the ball popped out ofhis hands and Bramble nodded in with Clichy again failing to stop itgoing over the line.

Having seen his side undone by a Rose at White Hart Lane in midweek,now a Bramble was the thorn in Wenger's side. He will certainly nothave been inclined to wish Fabianski well on his 25th birthday.

Equaliser: Bramble scores with his head after Fabianski dropped the ball

Former Arsenal favourite Paul Merson, now a Sky pundit, called the Pole 'useless' and added: 'Arsenal will never win another title until theyget a keeper.' Wenger countered: 'We can't say we lost the game becauseof the goalkeeper.'


Indeed, Fabianski had no chance with N'Zogbia's dramatic winner asthe player who has been linked with a move to Arsenal this summerdelivered the killer blow.

It was a sweet moment for Martinez, who has experienced the lows of concedingnine goals to Tottenham and five to United twice this season, as well as those highs against Liverpool and Chelsea.

'We've been through some very painful lessons this season and neverbeen able to react to a bad decision,' said the Wigan manager. 'We'vefolded many times. But I knew if we could get a goal, after beatingLiverpool and Chelsea, that we were capable of beating Arsenal. Thiswas the best one of the lot, without a doubt.'

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Source: Daily_Mail