Wigan Athletic 2-1 Preston North End: Late strikes leave Ferguson’s men ruing missed opportunities

 

N'Zogbia's injury time winner sinks PNE (Photo Craig Brough/Action Images)

 

Preston North End threw away their chance of a Carling Cup run in the last 10 minutes against Wigan Athletic, succumbing to two late Latics goals.

The result is sure to pile more pressure on manager Darren Ferguson as the Lilywhites continue their poor start to the campaign.

PNE took the lead through in-from Keith Treacy’s low free-kick from 25 yards, which deceived the wall and Wigan’s keeper Ali Al-Habsi.

The first half, in truth, was a fairly tepid affair, with neither side really creating chances. Wigan dominated with possession down both flanks but never really threatened Andy Lonergan in the Preston goal.

But PNE could have taken a two goal-cushion into the break after Scottish U21 international Paul Coutts rattled the post with a rasping drive.

The second half saw the game pick up the pace with the introduction of winger Charles N’Zogbia. Wigan were revitalised after a dismal first-half performance and took grasp of the game, although still lacking cutting edge up front, with Mauro Boselli often frustrated.

Coutts once again hit the woodwork, this time the bar from a Preston counter attack, after a sensational through-ball by Jon Parkin.

With Martinez’s side seemingly on the brink of a cup exit, the Latics pressure finally paid off with Jordi Gomez slotting home after a lovely solo run in the 87th minute.

The turnaround was completed two minutes into injury time as Wigan countered from their own half and Charles N’Zogbia finished the move after being set-up by James McCarthy.

Preston can take heart for containing a full-strength Wigan side for 80 minutes, but this doesn’t disguise their naivety in the latter stages here. Ferguson must now focus on Saturday’s game away at Coventry in hope that Preston can stop the rot in the Championship.

WIGAN – (4-2-3-1) Al-Habsi, Stam, Alcaraz, Caldwell, Figueroa, H.Thomas (McCarthy 71), Watson, Gomez, DiSanto, McArthur (N’Zogbia 45), Boselli

PRESTON (4-4-2) Lonergan, Gray, St.Ledger, W. Brown, Jones, Mayor, Coutts, Russell, Treacy (Parry 54), Barton, C. Brown (Parkin 54)

Attendance – 6,987

Belgium 0-1 Germany: Klose’s strike edges out youthful Belgium

 

 

Miroslav Klose celebrates his 53rd goal for Germany Photo:Roland Weihrauch/DPA

 

A solitary strike from Miroslav Klose was enough for Germany to get the perfect start to their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign, against a spirited Belgium outfit.

Bayern Munich’s Daniel Van Buyten was caught in possession by club teammate Thomas Muller, the ball was then squared to an unmarked Klose, who slotted home with ease in the 51st minute.

Klose, 31, hinted earlier in the week that he could continue up until the 2014 World Cup and you’d be hard pressed to argue with that, considering how important he is as the focal point of this fluid German team.

Germany didn’t have it all their own way though. For much of the first half, Belgium dealt expertly with the highly praised German front four, restricting them to long-range efforts with Thomas Vermaelen and Vincent Kompany nullifying any aerial threat.

In fact, the best chance in the first half fell to Moussa Dembele, whose venomous shot was well saved by Manuel Neuer as it could have easily bounced over the Schalke keeper. Eden Hazard also went a sensational run that beat at least 4 defenders, reinforcing why he’s highly touted by some elite European clubs.

Manager Joachim Löw will be happy with their second half performance as Germany finally took hold on the midfield battle, as Bastian Schweinstiger and Sami Khedira picked up from a slow start and dominated. This was Germany’s first competitive game since losing to Spain in the World Cup semi-final and they will be pleased to get 3 points in a tough away game at the King Baudouin Stadium.

Belgium often frustrated the Germans early in the game. In particular Everton’s Marouane Fellaini became difficult to track (despite his huge mane of hair) shifting between a support striker for Romelu Lukaku and helping the defence out when Germany were on the offensive. A typical box-to-box performance by the 6ft 5 midfielder.

Unfortunately for George Leekens’ side, their early pressure didn’t amount to much. Anderlecht’s wonderkid Lukaku was isolated up front on his own in the 4-1-4-1 formation and at times edged into offside positions. Leekens’ youth policy, in his first game as coach, didn’t pay dividends here but there was enough promise to suggest this team isn’t far away from excelling.

Suggestions that Germany weren’t yet near full fitness weren’t founded entirely, with only World Cup star Mesut Ozil looking slightly jaded at times, but maybe that’s down to his supremely high standards. Thomas Muller on the other hand looked comfortable in possession and gave the Belgium defence some real problems. His highlight was a lovely off the ball run with a backheel to Ozil, who blazed it over.

After a superb end-to-end first half, following a pattern of German possession and Belgium on the break, the game was killed off  by Klose’s goal. Germany coasted to a win, made even easier when Leekens made his substitutions, taking off the only players who provided a threat.

Germany’s next fixture in Group A is at home to Azerbaijan, managed by former coach Bertie Vogts, whilst Belgium face a tough away trip in Turkey, their main rivals for a play-off spot it appears. Turkey top Group A after a convincing 3-0 away win in Kazakhstan.

Belgium (4-1-4-1) Bailly, Alderweireld, van Buyten, Kompany, Vermaelen, Vertonghen, Simons (Vossen 83′), Fellaini, Hazard (Defour 73′), Dembelé, Lukaku (Benteke 73′)

Subs not used: Gillet, Ciman, Deschacht, Witsel

Manager: George Leekens

Germany (4-2-3-1) Neuer, Lahm, Mertesacker, Badstuber, Jansen (Westermann 45′), Schweinsteiger, Khedira, Müller, Özil (Cacau 88′), Podolski (Kroos 70), Klose

Subs not used: Wiese, Träsch, Marin, Gomez

Manager: Joachim Löw

King Baudouin Stadium, Attendance – 47,000

Referee – Terje Hauge (NOR) Assistants – Kim Thomas Haglund (NOR) Frank Andras (NOR)

Man of Match: Miroslav Klose